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Health chief: 200K Tennesseans should be vaccinated by end of the year

Moderna vaccine shipments arrived Monday, with more coming Tuesday and Wednesday.

Close to a third of Tennessee's shipment of Pfizer virus vaccines have now been administered, with more health care workers receiving it every day, the state's health director said Monday.

Also, the first shipment of some 115,000 vaccines from supplier Moderna arrived Monday in the state and is already being administered, Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said in a briefing with reporters. More Moderna shipments should arrive Tuesday and Wednesday.

The state also was surprised to learn it could order another 40,000 Pfizer vaccines, and those have been requested and are expected to arrive Tuesday or Wednesday, Piercey said.

And starting Monday, pharmacies across the state from CVS and Walgreens will be going into long-term care facilities to give Moderna vaccines to residents and staff.

 

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to the disease, and the state expects that if it can get vaccines quickly to residents in elder care centers that that will help ease pressure for service on hospitals, Piercey said.

In all, the doctor estimated some 200,000 Tennesseans will have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year.

"How that translates into reduced demand on hospitals – we kinda have to wait and see on that," Piercey said.

Critical workers are also in line to get the vaccine in early 2021. Members of the general public will follow, perhaps in the spring or early summer, by some federal estimates.

Piercey told reporters as of Monday morning that some 16,500 Pfizer vaccines had been given to front-line health care workers at hospitals. The state's initial Pfizer allotment was 56,500 doses.

Credit: Department of Health
A draft plan of the state's vaccine phases.

A second shot will need to be given in about 21 days to all recipients to ensure broad effectiveness. 

Many of the 74 participating hospitals worked through the weekend to vaccinate their personnel with the Pfizer shot, she said.

Responding to a question about vaccines for teachers, Piercey said that group is currently expected to receive the shots in a second phase wave that will target a "critical infrastructure" population. That population is estimated to be about 2.55 million people -- the single largest population group in the state.

Piercey suggested draft plans are experiencing frequent changes, and it's possible the vaccine timetable for teachers could change as well.

The priority right now is to reduce demand by the general population on hospitals in the state.

The state won't be administering virus tests Thursday and Friday because of the holiday, she said. Other testing options remain, however.

Daily state virus numbers won't be released Christmas Day, but that data will be made public the following day.