Published February 3, 2021
Over the course of the next three weeks, Tennessee is expecting to see a 15% bump to its allotment of the Covid-19 vaccines. That would be 13,000 additional vaccines a week.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, the Tennessee Health Commissioner, said that will increase the weekly supply from around 80,000 to 93,000 doses. However, this is just for the first doses. The vaccine requires two doses in order to be the most effective, with the second one given around a month after the first. The supply increase does not include second rounds.
Piercey said that this increase still is “not anywhere close to meeting the demand,” as counties across the state are lowering the age requirement to seventy years old. The federal government is already asking states to open eligibility to people who are 65 or older.
Piercey said, “The 70 to 74 age group is still substantially higher risk than that of 65 to 69. That is why we went down in a five-year increment instead of a full 10-year increment. The other practical matter is that supply is still very, very limited.”
The Hamilton County Health Department operates outside of the state health department, and officials say they will continue to keep the age of eligibility to 75 and older, except for eligible health care workers. Counties across the state are able to have their own pace when it comes to the vaccine phases.
Hamilton County, Davidson County, and Shelby County are currently to only ones that have not lowered the age eligibility from 75 to 70.
Piercey said there are about 300,000 Tennessee residents who fall between the 70 to 74 age range, and it will most likely take the rest of February for them to get vaccinated.
She said they will “certainly open that up sooner if we get additional vaccine.”
The next vaccine phase in Tennessee will expand to make teachers, child care workers, and first responders eligible.
The chair of the Covid task force, Rae Bond, said that Hamilton County’s biggest problem has been a lack of available vaccine doses. In a news conference on Tuesday, Bond said the online and by-phone appointment systems have helped the county.
“The vaccine phases are open to those who are most at risk,” Bond said during the news conference. “We want to ask those who are not in those groups to avoid signing up and taking a spot in the appointment line. It slows down the process for those who currently qualify for the vaccination.”
Hamilton County has recently seen a decrease in the number of Covid cases and it has continued that trend for several days in a row.
Bond said, “We’re continuing to see encouraging trends with fewer active cases, a declining positivity rate, and lower levels of hospitalizations. We’re also seeing a positive response to COVID vaccination in our community, which is very encouraging.”
However, the entire region of Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia, and Northeast Alabama saw their deadliest month for Covid cases during January. Since Friday, there have been 19 Covid-related deaths.