MEMPHIS, Tennessee — "We are in this together. Our goal is to put as many shots in arms as we possibly can," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.
Mayor Strickland promised improvements Thursday, after Tennessee Health Department investigators - citing mismanagement and more than 2,400 expired and wasted doses - abruptly shifted vaccine operations from the Shelby County Health Department to the City of Memphis indefinitely.
"Shelby County is still our partner in this fight," Mayor Strickland said.
The new team moved quickly in the past 48 hours, acquiring 15 coolers for vaccine storage and moving nearly 7,000 doses and into arms Thursday at eight vaccine centers, including the Pipkin Building.
"All sites are well underway this morning and started on time with minor interruption," Mayor Strickland said.
Those with the city of Memphis also promised the public changes at the mass vaccination sites. They include a full week appointment schedule set out Friday before, along with information gathered and checked outside a building to ensure person has appointment.
Staff will also turn people away if they show up more than hour before their appointment.
"Those small incremental improvements, I think we'll see a broad ranging impact in wait times and the decreasing the amount of frustration of getting an appointment," City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said.
McGowen said between community sites and area teachers vaccinated this week, the peak stockpile of 51,000 thousand available doses will drop to 10,000 by week's end.
After new doses arrive, next week a scheduled 30,000 thousand doses - including 17,000 first doses and around 13,000 second doses - will go into arms.
"Our baseline when we do scheduling going into next week is we will lay out the appointments we know we have, and then we'll do new appointments on top of that. Yes, we will honor all those appointments," McGowen said.
The City of Memphis will transition to a more robust scheduling software system from the state in next week or so, but the 901-222-SHOT appointment hotline will stay the same. More staff will be added to handle the call volume.
Even though members the state of Tennessee's Unified Command Group visited Memphis last week, to date, those with the city of Memphis haven't asked the state for specific help with distribution.
As is stands now, 33,000 vaccine doses can be administered weekly at community sites in Shelby County.
The goal is for additional community sites to open in the weeks and months ahead and to increase the weekly total to 50,000 administered doses.