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Slowly but surely: KCHD director urges patience as vaccine rollout expands

Dr. Buchanan said the county gets 5,000-7,000 doses a week from the state that must be parceled out for distribution.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knox County Health Department realizes the vaccination process is slower than everyone would like.

But the public is gradually getting the shots it needs to combat COVID-19, Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said Tuesday.

"It's working and we're getting people vaccinated," Buchanan told reporters in the department's twice-weekly briefing. "Yes, we all wish it would go faster."

Considering the county's population, it so far has given at least one dose to 11.8 percent of the population, Buchanan said. That's better than the overall state rate of 10.66 percent, she said.

The county has just gotten permission from Knox County Commission to rent an old Food City on Broadway in North Knoxville that should expedite the distribution of the vaccine. The agreement calls for at least a six-month use at $5,700 a month.

Buchanan said KCHD must get the old store south of the Interstate 640 interchange set up to accommodate vaccine distribution. That's expected in March.

The county will release more details as they become available about the dedicated distribution center.

There are close to 17,000 people now on KCHD's waiting list to get a shot. They include people age 65 and older.

Buchanan cautioned the Health Department isn't the only place to seek out a shot.

The University of Tennessee announced Tuesday it will hold an on-campus clinic Friday, and the University of Tennessee Medical Center also announces occasional vaccine clinics.

Independent pharmacies also can now give out the vaccine and Walmart has an agreement with the federal government to make the vaccine available to qualifying individuals.

Also, East Tennessee Children's Hospital began Monday giving shots to teachers and other education staff who qualify.

Buchanan said somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 doses are coming to Knox County from the state every week. That then gets divided amongst various distributors.

KCHD gets 1,000 to about 1,500 shots a week to hand out, she said.

Demand exceeds current supply.