Update

Pipkin Building set up to vaccinate 80-100 per hour

By , Daily Memphian Updated: January 12, 2021 8:08 AM CT | Published: January 11, 2021 3:55 PM CT

When the Health Department resumes vaccinations Tuesday, Jan. 12, it will be set up to administer 80-100 shots an hour in a drive-thru process at the Pipkin Building, 940 Early Maxwell Blvd. 

The clinic will run Tuesdays-Saturdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through the end of January, vaccinating only people who registered through the SignUpGenius app or the phone reservation system.

All appointments slots are filled through January.

Those without appointments are asked to wait their turn to avoid traffic jams at Pipkin.

The number of locations will expand over time as the Health Department gets more information about the size of its weekly allocations, said Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department.

“Many people are asking about the second dose,” Haushalter said. “We will make announcements about the second dose when we have confirmation of when we will receive the second batch of Moderna.”

The department will also reach out separately to people to alert them of the time and place of their second shot.

The county expects it will take a year to vaccinate 75% to 80% of the 937,000 people in Shelby County, a timeline that is buoyed by news that the Biden administration intends to free up more vaccine in the national supply chain.

Much has been made of the scarcity of vaccine, here and across the nation.

“It really is the agreements that were made with the pharmaceutical companies,” Haushalter said. “There were limited numbers ordered from the pharmaceutical companies at the federal level, and then they have to be released from the federal level to the state level.

“I don’t see that there’s a problem within the state,” she said. “There’s very timely communication and, I’ve shared this before, if we receive communication about receipt of extra vaccine, we’re generally given less than an hour to respond. So I think we’re being as timely as we can within the state.”

The vaccine is distributed by county population. Shelby County’s population is 13.7% of the state’s population. The 8,900 shots the county is scheduled to receive per week is 13.8% of the state’s allotment of 64,275.

While Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris agrees state officials would like to have more vaccine and that the scarcity is likely a national supply chain problem, “we still have to be really really watchful to make sure that we’re getting our fair share based on our population. Sometimes, I’ve seen comments that make me think there may be a little bit more into that calculation than just a straight population analysis,” he said.

“I think we’re all in this together. I don’t think we’re trying to get more than our fair share, but we do need to be watchful to make sure so Shelby County gets exactly its fair share.”

Last Friday, Jan. 8, President-elect Joe Biden said he intended to release more supply to get more vaccines in arms faster. 

The Centers for Disease Control says about 9 million people have received one dose of the vaccine, less than half the 20 million the federal government set as a goal by the end of 2020.

Monday, the federal government said it had delivered 25.5 million doses to states, territories and federal agencies.

Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, director of infectious disease at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, is troubled by the supply chain questions.

“That fact that we don’t know where these doses are and where the hold up is in getting the vaccines to the states and why different states seem to have run out and others have not – this is the sort of thing that we need answers to,” he said.

While he is sympathetic to getting vaccine to as many people as possible, Threlkeld hopes Biden has a way to get more production from the pharmaceutical companies and is not suggesting forgoing the second shot.

“It’s hard for me to get behind that particular idea because it takes us into a situation where we really don’t know the data,” he said.

The 4,000 doses the Health Department expects to give this week, starting Tuesday at the Pipkin Building, are part of the weekly allotment of 8,900 doses. The remainder are given to the hospitals to continue vaccinating their staff. The division is a formula worked out by the state.

No appointments are being made for February yet. Those signups will be announced when the Health Department knows what its supply will be in February.

Shots will be given in vehicles, which will pull in, then pull out of the Pipkin and stop at a holding site for 15 minutes so people can be monitored for adverse reactions to the shot.

Down the road, the county expects to introduce a more sophisticated online signup system with capability to put people in line (queue up) as well as alert people on short notice if there are excess doses at the end of the day.

For now, it is using the SignUpGenius system, which was rolled out Friday, Jan. 8.

The Health Department is building equity into the vaccination system by reserving a certain amount of vaccine for people who do not have internet access and must make appointments by phone, and in the future, by spreading the clinics out across the city.

Initial plans are in the works to add sites in Whitehaven and Germantown, Haushalter said.

When the appointment link went live Friday, a number of people signed up for multiple appointments. Monday, the Health Department contacted those people to place them in single slots and then alerted people who left phone messages of their appointments.

The call-in line was not to be active until Monday, but people called other Health Department numbers over the weekend. Because staff were there, they answered and took appointments, Haushalter said.

In future signups, she expects that just under half the appointments will be set aside for people in the eligible age category. It now is those 75 and older.

To make sure everyone has access, there may be some no-appointment clinics for people 75 and older or short-term clinics in areas where access may be difficult.

“We’ll try a variety of different approaches in the upcoming weeks and months to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to access the vaccine,” she said.

It is also continuing to vaccinate this week in nursing homes that do not have agreements with pharmacies. Fewer than 10% of nursing homes are part of the national partnership worked out with Walgreens and CVS, she said. 

The Health Department spent all of last week working with teams of nurses to cover those residents. The number it can vaccinate in a day is much less because every resident must have a signed consent. 

“And then when you go on site you may or may not have a high level of uptake. So, we really are encouraging nursing homes to have those relationships with the pharmacies if possible,” Haushalter said.

She also expects changes in essential worker priorities, including those who work in industrial or warehouse settings.

Locally, contact tracing interviews show higher levels of transmission in those workplaces.

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Topics

Alisa Haushalter vaccines Pipkin Building
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers healthcare and higher education for The Daily Memphian.


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