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Commissioner of Health briefs Tennessee newspapers
Dr. Lisa Piercey
Dr. Lisa Piercey

Tennessee Commission of Health, Dr. Lisa Piercey held a briefing with Tennessee newspapers last Wednesday to discuss COVID 19 vaccinations for those citizens 70 and older.

Each county is vaccinating in phases, and allocation is based on that specific county's population. Many Tennesseans are anxiously awaiting their vaccines but their county has yet to move to the next stage, which Dr. Piercy sees as a good thing.

“It is a good thing because what that means is we keep having people in those counties want it and we give it to them. In the counties who have moved forward, generally those are the counties who have had lower uptake. One way you could have done that is to say O.K. just stop where you are and we’re all going to move forward at the same time. There have been other states who have done that and have had to wait thousands of doses expired because they were waiting for the phase to finish in other counties. We chose not to do that here. We chose to push forward in counties that were starting to have reduced uptake. That made it messy. And, we knew that was going to happen, but I want to push forward as fast as I can and in some of those rural areas where uptake is lower that’s why they’re a little further,” said Dr. Piercey.

When asked about people from other states coming into Tennessee for the vaccination, Dr. Pierey’s said they are aware some Tennesseans are traveling outside of their county of residence to receive their COVID-19 vaccines.

“There is a term that has risen in the last few weeks that you may have never heard of before,” said Dr. Piercey, “vaccine tourism. We have seen people cross county lines and even state lines to get to a county that has a further phase than their own county. I kind of have mixed feeling about that. Most of my feelings are negative. And, here’s one primary reason why. It is because each county has an allocation based on their population. So there’s no way to account for how many people are coming from out of the county.

“Having said that, a vaccine in an arm is a vaccine in an arm. And, I’m happy about that. This is a federal resource and it cannot be restrained by county line or even state line. So while we are seeing a lot of movement between counties, we don’t see a ton of movement outside of the state.”

This week Tennessee received 101,000 doses, last week 93,000 doses were received. In the upcoming week around 106,000 should be received. The state is pushing the vaccines out as soon as they are received. By the end of the month, Dr. Piercey said she believed they will be able to push to the next phase and have the 1b population, all of our teachers statewide, vaccinated. This is also when the next phase will begin. DeKalb County school staff have already been offered the inoculation.

“The last week of the month, as we are to receive a substantial amount of vaccines, we will be moving to the next phase,” said Dr. Piercey. “That is the 55 plus, which is a much larger phase. We will be in that phase a longer time.”

Appointments for local vaccines can currently be made by calling the DeKalb County Health Department at 615-597-7599 or 866-442-5301. You may also request an appointment via the state website by choosing your county at    Dr. Piercey said all appointments will soon be converted to scheduling online via a state website.