MEMPHIS, Tenn. — "It was bad Saturday. It really was," said Shelby County resident Margo Raiford.
Raiford knows the pain of sitting in the long lines at the Pipkin building vaccination site. After spending hours in line Saturday, she had to leave without getting a shot.
For the past several weeks, people have been complaining about the long wait times, and hundreds have been sent homes without ever getting their shots.
Now the city of Memphis is taking over operations and logistics at the site.
"Outside the building is the traffic flow, workers to check on people having appointments and so forth - the porta potties, those operational aspects," said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.
The city already runs the Appling Center site, where the wait time is usually less than 30 minutes. At Appling, you can't get a vaccine unless you have an appointment, and you can't show up more than an hour early.
Strickland said he expects the same will apply at the Pipkin building. At this point, Strickland doesn't know why Pipkin has operated so slowly - but he plans to find out.
"Until we do a deep dive, I don't know. But I do think having an appointment and not showing up more than an hour early would help," said Strickland.
At Appling, the city consulted the the owner of a Chick- fil- A franchise to help improve traffic flow, and Strickland expects to do the same for the Pipkin site. He added it will be especially important as they ramp up vaccination efforts.
"Roughly, we are doing 10 to 15,000 doses a week in Shelby County. In a month or two, we are going to be doing 30 or 40,000 a week, and the pressure is going to be higher," said Strickland. "We may have to go 7 days a week, and we need to keep the option open of going 24 hours a day if we have that much supply."
In addition to the city taking over the Pipkin site, the Tennessee Department of Health said they are now working more directly with the city and county to create more access points for residents to get vaccine.
"We are really looking to get the most vaccine, to the most people, in the most efficient way there," said Dr. Lisa Piercey, the Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner.
As for Raiford, she was able to return Sunday to get her vaccine, but said it shouldn't have to be this complicated.
"I feel so fortunate because I know there were people who did not get it," said Raiford.
In a statement, Shelby County Health Director Alisa Haushalter said: "The Shelby County Health Department will begin transitioning day-to-day management of the Pipkin Building vaccination site to the City of Memphis at the beginning of March. The transition will allow the Health Department to deploy more of its personnel and resources to providing vaccinations to vulnerable groups and communities while still providing vaccine oversight for the mass vaccination drive-thru sites."