State working to open vaccine site with big box retailer

By , Daily Memphian Updated: January 28, 2021 7:36 PM CT | Published: January 28, 2021 12:52 PM CT

State leaders are finalizing discussions for offering vaccines in Shelby County through a yet-unnamed big-box retailer. The shots could begin as early as next week.

The doses, 3,000 to 4,000, are coming from the Centers for Disease Control and will be in addition to the now 11,900 weekly doses allotted to Shelby County.

“And as soon as that is up and running, the appointments will be made through the Health Department but people will be able to access that retailer in their own community,” said Alisa Haushalter, head of the Shelby County Health Department.

She called the extra allotment “bonus doses” for a county that so far is behind others in the state in terms of where it is in vaccinating priority groups because it has not had enough vaccine to drill past 1a1 and 1a2.

The Health Department also announced it will be giving shots in Whitehaven, starting Friday, Feb. 5, in partnership with Southwest Tennessee Community College at its campus at 1234 Finley Road.

The vaccine center will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Feb. 5-27, running the Tuesday-Saturday schedule the Health Department has used at other vaccine sites.

Health Dept. announces Whitehaven vaccination site

The Health Department’s Appling Cove site is open this week for second doses only. Next week, second doses will also be offered at the Pipkin Building and Germantown Baptist Church.

The partnership with Southwest Tennessee signals an emerging trend of moving some vaccine out of the Health Department’s purview and into the community. Eventually, Haushalter says vaccine will be available in doctor’s offices, safety-net clinics, such a Christ Community Health Services, and pharmacies. 

“The state’s vision is, over time as we have more supply, to make vaccine readily available, very much like the flu vaccine,” Haushalter said an interview Monday, Jan. 25.

Moving it to clinics and doctors’ offices will allow people to get the vaccine as part of their regular health care.

“There are also conversations with large pharmacies, so that would include Kroger, who has pharmacies, as well as Walgreens and CVS and expanding their capacity to be able to deliver vaccine in their pharmacies. That’s a critical movement forward,” Haushalter said.

Kroger did not respond to questions Thursday about possible commitments it may have or be planning with the state.

Dose math

More than 50,094 doses have been administered in Shelby County: 37,838 first doses and 12,256 second doses. More than half of the first doses have been given by the Health Department.

In a letter to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland Wednesday, Jan. 27, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said 104,375 doses have been delivered.

State says Shelby getting its fair share of COVID vaccine

The state’s numbers were through Jan. 24. In the meantime, the Health Department, in conjunction with University of Tennessee Health Science Center and University Clinical Health, gave nearly 1,500 doses Wednesday, and the Health Department gave nearly 2,000 doses Tuesday and Wednesday at the Pipkin site. Thousands more are reserved for second doses in Shelby County. 

The hospitals also receive doses beyond the purview of the Health Department’s accounting.

But beyond that, data lags that showed up from the beginning as coronavirus testing ramped up plague vaccination counts too. Agencies are to submit data on the number of doses administered to the state within 24 hours.

“But, if there’s large volumes, they may have up to three days to get that data in,” Haushalter said.

“What we do now is talk to all partners,” she said. “None of us have unused or unpromised vaccine. What we have is being administered or is committed to second doses.”

In a call with Shelby County reporters on Wednesday, state Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said Shelby County has had issues with data lags. She did not elaborate.

Judy Martin, head of immunization programs for the Health Department, is crafting is wider-scale immunization program with an eye also on access for the elderly, people in poverty, the underserved and those with disabilities.

All of the municipalities in Shelby County have offered to provide facilities.

Haushalter apologizes for chaos at Pipkin, promises better

Coronavirus cases

There are 81,657 cases, up 466 in 24 hours. The reproductive rate is 0.8; down twice in the last week from 0.84.

Numbers across all aspects of the pandemic are improving, including 7- and 14-day case rates and positivity levels.

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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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