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Memphis Fire Director says city's goal is to administer 700,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses by August 1

To meet that goal, the city would need to average between 40,000 and 50,000 weekly doses.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tuesday morning, Memphis Fire Director Gina Sweat said it's the city of Memphis' goal - now that they are overseeing vaccine distribution - to administer 700,000 doses by August 1st.

"I assure the people of Memphis that we are going to get this done and we are going to do it in a transparent way and be accountable," Director Sweat said.

Director Sweat is now the second in command behind Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen, now that the state transferred vaccine control to the city of Memphis last week.

Director Sweat said to reach the goal, staff would need to vaccinate roughly 50,000 people per week.

The mass vaccination sites currently can administer around 34,000 doses a week, but more sites and supply are expected in the coming weeks.

"I want the citizens to know that the Memphis Fire Department along with the city of Memphis stepped up, like we always do," Director Sweat said.

As of Tuesday, the Shelby County Health Department reported more than 140,000 vaccine doses administered, including 42,551 people fully vaccinated. 

"That is a work in progress to be as precise and as tight as we can," City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said.

McGowen added Tuesday that accountability will come with tweaks compared to how the SCHD previously ran the local vaccine distribution.

In two weeks, it's expected the city of Memphis will oversee a new vaccine signup software and expanded appointment call center.

"That new scheduling system is a little more flexible. It gives you the ability to have a second dose scheduled, makes it more flexible for our staff to be able to have it automatically uploaded into the tracking system," McGowen said. "We anticipate there will be a professional call center that will be brought onboard. We are evaluating several options right now, so that we can have more people, more hours of the day to be more responsive."

McGowen also said Tuesday staff will temporarily pause any new signups on the VaxQueue appointment waiting list of 50,000 people in order to make certain adjustments. 

"Our team is looking into that, to determine whether it's the appropriate tool to use going forward. I'm not going to judge VaxQueue one way or the other. That's just the system that we had. We do have a heck of a lot of names on there and those are the names we are going to call at the end of the day," McGowen said.

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us getting the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of white cells (our infection fighting cells) that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.

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