Hamilton County, TN – Over the course of the last week, there have been an estimated 4.5 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines administered across the nation.
Although this may be considered progress, the state of Tennessee reportedly has more than half a million cases alone, with just over 30,000 in Hamilton County.
Despite the debacle on Thursday, the county boasted on Twitter, “The Health Department administered 1,158 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine today. Did you know you can get 6 or sometimes 7 doses from one vial? At 7PM we administered our last dose. Not one dose was wasted.”
This may seem odd to anyone aware of how many residents report being turned away due to an apparent lack of doses as early as 12:15pm.
One local woman stated that she waited seven hours on Thursday, expressing gratitude that she held out despite being told there was no chance of receiving the vaccine.
As it turns out, the Health Department made what they consider to be a “miscalculation.” Citing that they acted quickly to disband the line initially for traffic concerns and then upon the assumption that the supply was running thin. The county did not want elderly residents to wait in vain in line.
The apparent concern and aggressive response was resolved when they made what seems to be a sudden discovery hours later that nurses were able to extend the supply in each vial across 6 or 7 doses rather than the projected 5. Whether or not this will become standard for distribution or will be considered best practice is undetermined. Other parts of the country have considered administering half doses in an attempt to spread immunity despite the conflict with compliance to clinical trials.
However, the strangest turn of events that day doesn’t appear to be the sudden increase in the number of doses in each vial or even the Mayor’s description of later discovering vials that had been thawed and needed to be used by the end of the day. Rather, many have questioned to whom the remaining doses were distributed. Several sources have reported that these remaining injections were administered to individuals who were close contacts of the health workers on-site.
These individuals reported being informed later in the day by “contacts” that they could visit the site and receive an injection after hundreds of eligible residents were turned away. This has understandably caused upset in the community. Coppinger’s opinion can be derived succinctly in a quote from his statement: “Our main priority is to ensure that our vaccine supplies do not go to waste.”
With a questionable day behind them, the Hamilton County Health Department published a press release listing all of the changes that will take place in the process. The release includes details such as the changes in traffic patterns to help eliminate the backup experienced Thursday. The county will continue with Phase 1a1 and 1a2 plans, but will implement an alphabetical measure.
The vaccine will be open to those in qualifying phases and age groups but “one day will be for A-K, and another day for L-Z,” referring to residents’ last names. They are hoping to implement this today and Wednesday as the next shipment of doses was expected to arrive Monday. The Health Department anticipates that there will be 1,000 doses available each day. Only time will tell if these changes prove productive in our community’s response to COVID-19.