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Shelby Co. Health Department Says Vaccine Pipeline is Limited, For Now

The Shelby County Health Department began vaccinating first responders December 28.
Daniel Schuldi / Unsplash
The Shelby County Health Department began vaccinating first responders December 28.

 

The Shelby County Health Department began vaccinating first responders December 28.
Credit Daniel Schuldi / Unsplash
The Shelby County Health Department began vaccinating first responders December 28.

Listen to an audio version of the story.

The Shelby County Health Department has administered nearly all of its initial supply of just over 12,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. About 2,500 remaining doses as of Tuesday are earmarked for long-term care facilities and other congregate living settings this week.

At a press conference, health department director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said at least 656,000 Shelby County residents—or 70 percent of the local population—would need to be vaccinated in order to reverse the tide of the pandemic.

“That is a significant undertaking,” she said. “It’s going to take everyone in our community to be able to achieve that goal.” But, officials now say that goal could take up to a year, based on the current unpredictable supply of vaccines.

This week, two drive-thru vaccination sites run by the health department were closed temporarily until more doses are available. Shots had been offered by appointment since Dec. 28 to first responders and even some people further down the state’s priority list, including funeral home and mortuary workers and individuals over age 75. 

To better coordinate vaccine distribution, the health department is asking the state for a dependable weekly minimum of 7,000 doses. 

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, as of Monday,1.28 percent of Shelby County’s population had received their first of two doses of the vaccine

In a recent preliminary analysis, the local health department found that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in Shelby County in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer and accounting for more than 10 percent of total deaths.

At least 903 died from complications related to the virus last year, compared to173 deaths in 2019 from influenza infections. 

“COVID-19 is five times more lethal than influenza,” said David Sweat, the deputy director for the health department. “That just helps you put in context what we’re all going through and what we’re trying to prevent.” 

Copyright 2021 WKNO

Katie joined the WKNO team in 2019. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org