All Tennesseans 75 years and older are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines in most Southeast Tennessee counties, including Hamilton, based on changes to the state’s vaccination plan announced Wednesday.
K-12 school staff and child care workers also moved into the vaccine priority – in front of adults with multiple high-risk conditions and other critical infrastructure workers – just like adults 65 and older. However, these groups will not be eligible for the next vaccination phase, which is expected to begin around February or March, according to a graphic illustration of the Tennessee Department of Health’s new plan.
The health commissioner in Tennessee, dr. Lisa Piercey, during a news conference, said the changes are focused on reducing risks to the healthcare system, society and the economy, while protecting those most vulnerable to serious and deadly COVID-19 infection.
With each new phase, individuals in a lower age group of ten years are eligible, regardless of their job or if they have underlying health conditions.
“Our plan is based on Tennessee data. We know that more than half of the Tennessee residents admitted to the hospital [with COVID-19] is 65 plus, and 80% of our deaths are 65 plus, ‘Piercey said, adding that the rationale behind the new priority for teachers and childcare workers is based on social risks.
“We know how important schools are for the functioning of our society and our economy – not only to keep children in schools so that they can learn and be educated, but also to keep parents at work,” she said.
Several other groups, including people over the age of 18 who are unable to live independently due to health conditions or disabilities, are now eligible. The following list contains all the groups currently eligible in Hamilton County, based on a news release from the Hamilton County Health Department:
* All healthcare workers exposed to patients or potentially infectious materials (including hospital staff, outpatient staff, pharmacy staff, patient transport, therapists, caretakers, dental care providers, behavioral health care providers, laboratory staff working with COVID-19 samples, funeral homes)
* Home health care staff
* COVID-19 staff for mass testing sites
* Student Health Providers
* Staff and residents of long-term care facilities
* First responders
* Persons older than 18 who cannot live independently due to health conditions or disability
* Anyone 75 years or older (must be a Hamilton County resident)
Countries can progress through allocation phases at different times, based on demand and demand for vaccines. According to the Department of Health’s website, Coffee County is the only county in Southeast Tennessee that has not yet vaccinated people 75 years and older.
Eligible Tennesseans can be vaccinated through their employer or at a local health department. Staff members and residents of long-term care institutions will be vaccinated through a partnership between pharmacies and the state.
(READ MORE: Chattanooga Health Workers Among First Tennesseans Vaccinated Against COVID-19)
Qualifying individuals seeking vaccination in Southeast Tennessee counties outside Hamilton County should call their local health department to make an appointment.
The vaccination site COVID-19 of the Hamilton County Health Center at 4301 Amnicola Highway will be open and the Pfizer vaccine will be given to qualified people – including anyone aged 75 and over who live or work in the country – Thursday from 9am until 17:00 Those who want to be vaccinated must be provided with proof of eligibility, such as a work ID and / or documentation of residence.
“We realize that information is changing rapidly about the distribution of vaccines,” Health Department administrator Becky Barnes said in the news release. “We demand the continued patience of our residents as our staff work through the challenges posed by this massive enterprise.”
To date, the Hamilton County Department of Health has received 3,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. As of Wednesday, the department has administered a total of 3,086 doses.
The health department’s efforts are in addition to ongoing vaccination campaigns at local hospitals. Chattanooga’s three major health systems – CHI Memorial, Parkridge and Erlanger – reported that as of Wednesday, they had vaccinated nearly 8,350 staff members and still have at least 2,900 doses on hand, with plans to administer them soon.
Changes to the overall state plan come despite Tennessee being behind its vaccination target after a blizzard delayed the delivery of the Moderna vaccine last week.
The Tennessee vaccine plan has undergone several revisions since it was first introduced in the fall, and officials said more changes are likely to come based on demand and as vaccine stocks increase.
Many more people will have to be vaccinated before the pandemic is controlled, and wearing face masks, social distance and being tested if they are exposed or remain ill are, according to critical officials.
Tennessee’s COVID-19 vaccination plan is available online.
Contact Elizabeth Fite at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ecfite.