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Efficiency a Factor as City Preps for "Open Season" on Vaccinations

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Highlights from March 23, 2021 Memphis/Shelby County Joint COVID Task Force

  • Several thousand appointments are still open this week at City of Memphis sites for people ages 45 and older and in Phase 3 of vaccination timeline.
  • Starting next week, vaccines will be available to all people 16 and older. Parental consent is needed if younger than 18. 
  • Variant strains of COVID are spreading in the community, particularly the B117 or U.K. strain.
  • Around April 5, Shelby County will see a significant increase in the number of available vaccines. The City of Memphis will expand delivery options to match increased doses.
  •  Men are far less likely than women to get vaccinated. Only about 34 percent of males so far in Shelby County have received a shot. 
  • By next Tuesday all Shelby County Schools teachers should be vaccinated.

Q: Why move forward now?

Doug McGowen, City of Memphis chief operating officer: Our aim is to get as many shots into as many arms as fast as we possibly can. And the phenomena we were seeing was not only were we not having all of our appointments filled, but we were having people double book and triple book appointments and then being no-shows. And so it was not as efficient. 

Q: When will new appointments be open for all adults?

McGowen: This Friday at about midday, so you should be looking for those appointments. Our goal is every vaccine that we receive is matched to an appointment, every appointment has a person that fills that appointment. Nobody has to wait an excessive period of time, and that's how we'll be most efficient and effective. 

Q: What are U.K. variant concerns in our community?

David Sweat, Shelby County Health Department: As many as 30 percent of the specimens (that have been sequenced) we are seeing are this U.K. variant. The problem is it's three times more transmissible, and it's also about 30 percent more lethal. So a faster-spreading virus that is more likely to kill you is not a good thing. The good news is the vaccine we have will protect against that variant strain. 

Q: Are there enough second doses to go around with all these new appointments?

McGowen: That is the intent. I will say there is a bit of a phenomena where folks are not taking their second dose on the timeline. It does make for a bit of a tracking problem for us when you are sitting on a significant number of doses and you have first dose appointments that are filled and second dose appointments that remain unfilled, and so you make the call to get more shots in arms. The track record is people have not been taking (the second dose) on time. 

Q: How is vaccination distribution going so far?

Sweat: The big discrepancy is by sex. Only about 33 or 34 percent of those who have been vaccinated are male. So one of the big challenges we have is women are taking the vaccine up very well. But we need more guys to come out. So guys, come on, let's get our shots. 

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher's favorite haunt is the intersection of history and cultural change. He is WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.