TENNESSEE, USA — Update: All East Tennessee counties, including Knox County, are now vaccinating people who are 16 and older.
Corie Gouge, Public Information Officer for the East Tennessee region, confirmed to 10News on Wednesday that all 15 counties managed by the Tennessee Department of Health have moved to 16+ effective immediately.
Knox County manages its own health department, so makes its own decisions about the rollout. On Wednesday, they said all providers in Knox County were encouraged to offer COVID-19 vaccines to anyone 16 years old and older. They also said they were updating their registration system to reflect the change.
The full statement from Knox County health leaders is below:
Effective immediately, all providers in Knox County are encouraged to offer COVID-19 vaccine to anyone 16 years of age and older as soon as supply, registration systems, resources, etc. allow.
With regards to our clinics, we’re working to update our registration system to reflect this advancement.
You do not have to get the vaccine in the county where you live.
In just two weeks, everyone in Tennessee who is age 16 or older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. For a 'substantive number' of counties, that day could come even sooner.
"I said something important there that I wanted to make sure you caught," Dr. Lisa Piercey said on an afternoon call with reporters. "There are some counties where all residents of all ages are now eligible in that county."
According to Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Health, if you want to get a vaccine and haven't been able to before, April 5 is the day to mark on your calendar.
"The federal government has asked us to make sure every adult can receive access by May 1. Tennessee will beat that deadline," Gov. Lee said in a video posted to Twitter.
Tennessee will also move into Phase 3 on April 5, which includes residents and staff members of congregate living facilities including college dormitories, group homes and shelters, and those in the corrections system. Phase 3 also includes grocery store workers who were not eligible for vaccination based on previous age or risk-based categories.
According to a press release, to make sure there is enough vaccine for these groups, direct allocations of vaccines will be made to those facilities.
“As we’ve promised, we’re able to expand our COVID-19 vaccine eligibility as vaccine supplies have increased and we’ve made substantial progress in protecting those most at risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP.
So far, 2.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been made available to Tennessee, and the TDH has made sure all of them were distributed to providers across the state.
Tennessee, like all other states, has rolled out the vaccines in stages, starting with the most high risk and vulnerable. It was a slow start, with demand outweighing supply and local health departments struggling to develop a fair system to administer the vaccine.
But since then, supply has really ramped up with three approved COVID-19 vaccines available. In addition, hospitals, big box stores, doctors' offices and local pharmacies are now receiving the vaccine and administering it to the public.
These factors helped accelerate the vaccine rollout plan, allowing Tennessee to reach this phase much earlier than expected.
Right now, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for people who are 16 and 17. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are approved for people age 18 and older. You can use vaccinefinder.org to find where the vaccine is available and what kind of vaccine is on hand at those locations