The Investigators: Why hasn’t Tennessee administered the COVID-19 vaccine yet?

Mississippi and Arkansas started on Monday
Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 9:44 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The COVID-19 vaccine became available for selected health care workers in Arkansas and Mississippi starting Monday.

Since then, thousands of doses have arrived in those states.

In Tennessee, where the number of coronavirus cases is skyrocketing, neither hospitals nor the state have administered a single dose.

The Mississippi and Arkansas Departments of Health have each received 25,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Tennessee has received one tray, a total of 975 doses, according to the Department of Health.

In a press release, the state said it would “hold” those doses as “an emergency backup supply should any receiving hospital’s supply be damaged.”

Selected hospitals will begin receiving the vaccine Thursday. Not from the state but from Pfizer directly, which is one reason for the delay, according to a Tennessee Department of Health spokesperson.

“This will allow hospitals to begin administering the vaccine as soon as it arrives,” said TDH spokesperson Bill Christian.

The fact that the arrival date in Tennessee lags behind Arkansas and Mississippi has drawn criticism from lawmakers and doctors alike, especially as Tennessee’s coronavirus case numbers are skyrocketing.

“We are sitting on these vaccines that people that want them could utilize and take right now,” said state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Democrat from Shelby County.

When the doses arrive Thursday, priority will be given to areas in the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index; communities that are more vulnerable to the affects of a disaster, like a pandemic.

Shelby, Lauderdale, Haywood, Hardeman and McNairy counties all fall into that category.

The WMC Action News Five Investigators wanted to see how many doses will go to those vulnerable communities so we asked for a list of the hospitals receiving the vaccine.

Our request was denied.

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