KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — While COVID-19 is still very much a presence in our community, vaccination efforts are really starting to make a difference.
More than 175-thousand Knox County residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, according to the Knox Co. Health Dept. (KCHD)
"That's one in four Knox County residents with at least some level of protection," said KCHD's Charity Menefee.
In addition, the KCHD has encouraged all local providers to begin offering the vaccine to anyone aged 16 and older, as soon as their supply allows. That includes local hospitals, pharmacies, and retail stores that are offering vaccination clinics.
"Opening up vaccine eligibility in this matter is a momentous step," said Menefee.
If you want to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine, start with www.vaccinefinder.org. There, you can see providers near you and get links to sign up for any available spots.
Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for people as young as 16, so that is the only option right now for teens under 18. Menefee said there has been discussion about what in-school vaccination could look like, but nothing has been decided yet. KCHD urges parents to take advantage of existing opportunities if they want their teen vaccinated.
You can still sign up for the KCHD waiting list, which is down to just over 5,000 names, however KCHD encourages everyone to expand their search to other providers.
UT Medical Center's Dr. Keith Gray, who has represented all local hospitals in their efforts to respond to the pandemic, gave more encouraging news.
He indicated this may be his last briefing and wanted to thank the health department and the community for working together over the past year.
He said all hospitals are back to doing all elective procedures and that anyone with any medical condition should not be afraid to seek treatment.
Visitation could also be opening up soon at local hospitals, with up to visitors allowed at a time. He said to check with the individual hospitals on their policy.
"Hospitals are also shifting from treating COVID to vaccinations. Part of the focus is educating the community on vaccines but also reaching out to resistant or under-served communities," he said.
Dr. Gray said he his not aware of high penetratin of COVID-19 variants in the area, but they are not focusing on that as much as they are getting as many people vaccinated as possible.