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More Vaccination Locations; City Officials Reverse Course on Registration Method

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WKNO File
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UPDATE (March 15) -- After introducing the new sign-up system Friday, city officials on Saturday decided it created too many additional problems for residents. They have returned to using the original sign-up portal for now. Read more here.   

A growing number of people in Shelby County will soon be able to receive their COVID-19 shots in a more conventional setting like their doctor’s office, while at the same time, the logistics of booking an appointment at mass vaccination sites could become easier.

The City of Memphis is switching to a new sign-up scheme for COVID-19 shots starting with the release of new appointments on Friday.

The city’s chief operating officer, Doug McGowen, says the new so-called VRAS system will handle both the appointments and some of the on-site administrative tasks.

“It’s going to ask you a few more questions on the front end so that when you go to your appointment, you’re not going to have to fill out quite as much paperwork,” he said at Thursday’s press briefing. “It will all be electronically captured.”

The state-provided system also reminds people when it’s time to schedule those second shots—only for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine—and directs them where to go.

“It will select for you and give you some opinions about the most convenient place for you to receive your vaccine,” McGowen said.

And convenient places are expanding locally. City officials plan to administer up to 36,000 first and second doses next week primarily at its five anchor, mass vaccination locations. On top of that, about 50 smaller providers will receive 14,000 new first doses split between them.

Providers include primary care and geriatric clinics and dialysis centers.

“Even several of the large doctor offices are now able to receive and distribute those vaccines,” McGowen said. “So It’s becoming more normalized—more access points.”

A county map pinpointing all vaccine locations should be available soon, McGowen says, adding not to forget that some big box stores such as Krogers and Walmarts also have open appointments. 

McGowen hopes more people will soon be able to book a vaccine appointment by phone with greater ease, as well. Starting Friday, residents calling the health department number—901-222-7468—will get assistance from a larger group of state-provided operators, seven days a week. 

Over one million additional Tennesseans became eligible for a vaccine on Monday. Officials anticipate this 1c group—those with high-risk health conditions—will take a significant amount of time to vaccinate. 

“The demand is definitely still there,” McGowen says. “I believe it will be there for the next several weeks at least.” 

Those 65 and older can also receive a shot. According to David Sweat, the deputy director of the Shelby County Health Department, 52 percent of those above age 75 in the county have been vaccinated and 40 percent of those in age category 65-74. 

“We still have a lot of people eligible there,” Sweat said.

 

To schedule a vaccination appointment click here.