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Tennessee To Open COVID Vaccine To Majority Of Residents

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Tennessee has “soft-launched” a new phase of COVID vaccination, beginning to offer doses to anyone 55 and up or in “critical infrastructure” jobs. A state health department official says a formal announcement will come Monday, along with plans to open up vaccinations to all adults in April.

According to health officials in Nashville, Davidson County also plans to move forward to new distribution phases on Monday.

The move to critical infrastructure jobs is well ahead of schedule, with the state distribution plan not anticipating doses for some until after July 1. But demand has been far less than expected, especially in rural parts of the state.

Critical infrastructure includes:

  • Social services, like child welfare agencies
  • Commercial agriculture and food production
  • Public transit and all transportation
  • Public infrastructure such as anyone who works on dams, roads, locks, bridges, solid waste
  • Telecommunications and utilities

Counties in West Tennessee are already offering COVID vaccinations to the new age and risk groups. Earlier this week, state officials reported that only 20% of appointments were being filled at West Tennessee county health departments. The rate of booked appointments was much higher in Middle Tennessee at 80%.
It’s not just the rural counties that’s seeing demand for doses drop off. Shelby County has already opened appointments to critical infrastructure employees as of Thursday afternoon and asked the state if it could open vaccinations to anyone who wants a shot.” On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Health signaled that it will allow counties to move forward as quickly as they want, as long as they have enough supply of doses.

“As Tennessee continues working to protect those most at risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 and provide vaccinations as quickly as possible, counties may progress through each of the phases as vaccine supply allows,” the department said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Neighboring Mississippi has also opened vaccines to anyone this week, becoming the second state in the nation to drop all restrictions.

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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