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Director: Counties aren't all on same schedule to administer vaccine

This week pharmacies began giving shots to residents of nursing homes in Tennessee.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Don't assume all health agencies will stay on the same schedule as they roll out a COVID-19 vaccine in Tennessee, Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said Tuesday.

Departments have their own schedules, vaccine allotments, pace and populations, Buchanan told reporters during a routine briefing.

Health departments also aren't responsible for every single component of the vaccine drive, she said.

For example, pharmacies are working this week with long-term care centers such as nursing homes to give the virus shots to residents and staff members.

The Knox County Health Department, meanwhile, has started giving shots to police officers among other first-responders. The shots are being administered in "private pods" that aren't open to the public, she said.

The public should also be prepared to wait to get their own shot. Buchanan said there's not enough of the vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna yet to give it to the general public.

So specific "priority" groups are being targeted that are particularly vulnerable to getting the highly contagious disease, she said.

Some estimates show the vaccine won't be available to the general public until late spring or early summer. Meanwhile, other drug companies are continuing to work on their own shot that could also win federal approval for administration.

Buchanan said getting the vaccine is a personal decision.

"I encourage everyone to make an informed decision," she said.

She also said people should ignore the plethora of false or misleading data that's on social media. People need to seek facts from reliable sources, she said.

A record 163 Knox Countians are now in the hospital being treated for COVID-19 complications. With the addition of 6 deaths Tuesday, there now have been 312 people who have died in the county from the virus this year.

Buchanan cautioned that test result numbers coming out this week may not fully reflect the presence of COVID-19 in Knox County. Testing wasn't conducted over the Christmas weekend, she said.

While testing has resumed this week, the New Year's holiday also may affect testing volume. It won't be until next week that more normal testing results likely will be seen, she said.

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