The Shelby County Health Department restarted COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday. While all appointments for this next round in January have already been booked, the most recent federal policy changes could potentially speed up future distributions.
On Tuesday, the nation’s top health authorities said they would no longer stockpile vials of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to ensure that the second booster shots are immediately available.
States are also being asked to lower the age of vaccine eligibility to people 65 and older and to those with pre-existing conditions.
Health department director Dr. Alisa Haushalter says adjustments to local vaccine availability will depend on how Tennessee officials react to this new federal guidance.
“It changes day to day, moment to moment,” she said at an afternoon press conference.
The local health department is still currently inoculating the state’s top priority groups, by appointment, including first responders, some healthcare workers outside of hospital settings and those over 75.
Even with the evolving nature of the country’s mass vaccination campaign, Haushalter anticipates that follow-up vaccine doses for those who have received their first shot will be available in several weeks as originally intended.
“There’s an assumption that the supply chain is going to improve, and we will have opportunity for the second doses at a later point,” she said.
While the health department can ask for proof of vaccine eligibility such as an ID or letter from an employer, Haushalter says undocumented immigrants in priority groups should not be afraid to make appointments.
“Regardless of someone’s country of origin or whether they’re viewed as documented or undocumented, they’re elgible for vaccine, and we want to encourage them to come get the vaccine,” Haushalter said.
Eligible people can also ask the health department to be put on a stand-by list so that doses from missed appointments will not go to waste.