MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This Thanksgiving as friends and family gather, health experts are also celebrating encouraging news on the COVID-19 vaccine front.
In recent days, Local 24 News learned the area should receive its first doses in just weeks, which will go to certain groups. The broader public is expected to get a vaccine in the spring.
"It's our ticket out of this for us. I think it's our way to herd immunity," Dr. Steve Threlkeld with Baptist Memorial Hospital said.
That's the new optimism in a promising week of COVID-19 vaccine news locally.
Area health leaders learned from the state that by December 15th or so, more than 22,000 doses are expected to go to the Shelby County Health Department and nearly 11,000 doses to area health care systems.
Additional hospital systems also applied.
Doctors predict first responders, assisted living facility workers, and medical personnel will be prioritized in the first batch of vaccines.
"The biggest calamity that we could have here is for health care itself to collapse, because then, do not only those people get sick, but then you remove the capacity to care for other people who get sick," Dr. Threlkeld said.
Dr. Threlkeld believes those in other fields should get vaccine prioritization after that.
"You look at restaurant workers and other people in packing plants, they may be higher at risk," Dr. Threlkeld said.
Health experts believe the vaccine will be readily available to most in the spring. That will require more distribution choices.
"One would hope folks would look to those in the oldest age group and then kind of move down to youngest that are least at risk," Dr. Threlkeld said.
Earlier this month on Good Morning America, FedEx Express Regional President of The Americas and Executive Vice President Richard Smith explained how the the Memphis Hub plans to store and ship the Pfizer vaccine that requires cooler storage.
"We have 90 cold chain facilities on five continents. We have over 5000 total in the express network, but 90 of them on five continents have cold chain capabilities, including in some of these key hubs, gateways, ultra cold freezer storage. So if something goes wrong, we can stage the product until we can move it again," Smith said.
According to Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey this week, the Volunteer State is expected to get between 80,000 and 100,000 doses in the first delivery, which will vaccinate between 40,000 and 50,000 people - since two doses are required per person.