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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Tennessee COVID-19 vaccines are in short supply

Shelby County doesn't know when more vaccines will be arriving here.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee is getting about half as much COVID-19 vaccine this week as they originally expected. 

Instead of the 90,000 doses Tennessee health officials had planned for, just under 50,000 will arrive. That leaves many counties with even fewer doses than they had expected.

The Shelby County Health director told the county commission Wednesday morning, if they get vaccine, they will get it out to the public. But right now, they don't know when more will arrive or how much they will get.

"Its critical people recognize the state plan is evolving," said Shelby County Health Director Alisa Haushalter.

Haushalter said between the vaccine doses given out by the Shelby County Health Department and hospitals, so far a combined 24,700 COVID- 19 vaccine doses have been administered. 

That is a long way from the goal of immunizing at least 650,000 people.

Originally Shelby County was only going to accept the Moderna Vaccine, because it is easier to handle, but Haushalter said the county told the state it will accept the Pfizer vaccine, hoping to up the number of vaccinations being sent to Shelby County. 

Last month, Tennessee's Health Director Dr. Lisa Piercey said they had assurances from the federal government it would receive 50,000 doses Pfizer doses and 40,000 Moderna doses a week. So far, there has been no explanation as to why this week there was a shortage. Tennessee received just over 47,000 doses.

"I think we really need to hope we can get as much vaccine as possible not only to the state but into the arms of people in the state," said Dr. David Aronoff, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Aronoff said the rate the vaccine is being distributed to the state of Tennessee is concerning.

"It is going to be a real challenge to immunize enough people to really develop the kind of herd immunity that we anticipate needing to stop the pandemic," said Aronoff.

Aronoff said hopefully, additional vaccines will be approved in the near future and the production of Pfizer and Moderna will speed up.

"The sooner we can get more options available authorized by the FDA, the sooner we can get as many people as possible vaccinated - and of course having different options can be really helpful," said Aronoff.

As you wait for your vaccine, the infectious disease specialist added, now more than ever, it's important people social distance, wear masks, and only go out when necessary.

"These things may seem like they don't matter but they do. It is really an important time for people to take this pandemic more seriously than ever before."