Pipkin vaccinations will go 12 hours a day, 7 days a week

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 01, 2021 3:16 PM CT | Published: April 01, 2021 1:45 PM CT

The federal partnership with FEMA that is bringing 21,000 new vaccine doses a week to Shelby County will completely change how the Pipkin site runs.

Feds expanding vaccine supply here, beginning next week

Starting Wednesday, April 7, it will go from a two-lane drive up to four lanes, operating 12 hours ( 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) every day of the week.

A tent the size of a football field will be erected over the weekend to amp up the capacity, said Doug McGowen, COO for the City of Memphis.

“We will be doing a dry run next Tuesday and next Wednesday, we expect to be at full capacity,” he said.

Pipkin, which now has capacity to administer 1,500 doses a day, will double to 3,000. FEMA is sending personnel to help cover the bases.

“To deliver 21,000 additional doses over and above what we’ve already been doing, that’s a huge logistics effort. We needed additional pharmacy-grade freezers, refrigeration capacity, all of that has been secured,” McGowen said, noting that Regional One has been the city’s partner since it took over vaccination efforts in late February for storing vaccine.

Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) will help provide transportation to the Pipkin building and churches will be asked to lend the use of their vans.

“We’re going to ask them to help bring people to us. We’ll help them schedule appointments,” McGowen said during the local COVID-19 task force briefing on Thursday, April 1.

With a fast-pass lane, church vans will be able to get in and out quickly.

Next week, the city’s appointment schedule will go from 30,000 appointments to more than 52,000 in five fixed-base centers and pop-ups.

To accommodate staffing demands, University Clinical Health, which runs clinical staffing for Pipkin and the Appling City Cove site, will scale back operations at Appling from six to four days a week.

Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett will expand its vaccination days to avoid loss of capacity.

Joint municipal vaccination site set to open April 7

An unnamed community partner, McGowen said, is expected to open its campus for vaccinations in mid-April.

“So, more points of delivery. More vaccine to deliver, more opportunities to do community-based pods,” he said.

Of the 52,000 does, the majority – 40,000 to 42,000 doses – will be Pfizer. The remaining 10,000 will be Johnson & Johnson.

How Memphis is allocating 8,000 J&J vaccines

The city expected to run out of vaccine by Thursday, April 1. Instead of closing all the public pods, it added slots at Pipkin and the Southwest Tennessee Community College campus in Whitehaven. Those appointments were scheduled early Thursday.

The new federal assistance covers Shelby County for the next six weeks.

“If we fully execute the plan,” McGowen said, “it will result in 63,000 fully immunized people at the completion of six weeks.”

Shelby County is now at 31.8% of its vaccine goal, Shelby County Health Department Deputy Director David Sweat said.

Thursday, the Health Department began reporting the number of people vaccinated, including stats on the numbers who have received first doses and who are fully vaccinated, versus doses administered.

For months, the goal here has been to vaccinate close to 700,000 people or about 70% of the population.

Because it is not clear when vaccine will be approved for juveniles, getting to that goal, Sweat said, is going to mean vaccinating every adult in the county.

Right now, about 100,000 have been fully vaccinated.

“If we don’t get to somewhere between 650,000 and 700,000, we won’t reach herd immunity,” Sweat said. “The consequence of that would be the virus would still find plenty of susceptible people to infect.” 

The new allocation of vaccine allows the process to move faster.

If there is public hesitancy to get the vaccine, it will be apparent next week when appointments double. With the frequency in which variants are increasing, health experts are holding their collective breath that people flock forward now, especially those in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

The age distribution of people here infected with the U.K. strain, which is 50% more contagious and thought to be 30% more fatal, is affecting younger people; 69% of the infections are in people under 45.

The vaccine protects against the U.K. strain.

“One of the messages that we’re trying to get out to everybody is get your vaccine; get your shot. It’s available ... But if you are less than 45 years of age, we specifically want to encourage you to come out and get vaccinated,” Sweat said.


coronavirus Doug McGowen David Sweat Pipkin Building city of Memphis FEMA MATA
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 business news and features for The Daily Memphian.