Kid COVID shots have arrived in rural Tennessee counties, but hardly anyone is getting them

Nov 18, 2021

In Davidson County, more than 4,500 doses of COVID vaccine have been giving to children under 12. It's the only county in Middle Tennessee where the vaccine is being offered at schools.
Credit Metro Nashville Public Schools

Quite a few Tennessee counties are still reporting almost no children under 12 taking the newest COVID vaccine. Through Tuesday evening, 18 counties had yet to report giving a single dose.

In Middle Tennessee, Cannon, Clay, Fentress, Grundy, Houston, Macon, Moore, Lewis, Perry, Pickett, Stewart, Trousdale and Van Buren counties have reported no kid vaccinations. Officials with the Tennessee Department of Health say counties don’t start publishing the data until they hit 10 doses, so some could just be in single digits. The does have been available since last week.

Dr. Jessica Miller is a pediatrician in Lafayette, the county seat of Macon County. She says she’s bringing up COVID shots with every family that comes in.

She sees value in combatting any hesitancy one-on-one, but she’d also like to see more public promotion. And there’s virtually none right now. Even Macon County’s COVID-19 page makes no mention of vaccines.

“I would be all for increased messaging with our health departments,” she says. “Honestly the more parents see it, the more normalized it is, the better. And also the more avenues they have, because some parents are going to have a harder time coming in during the week to get it done.”

Public health departments outside Nashville are not offering the COVID vaccine — for kids or others — on nights and weekends partly because there’s not enough demand to justify the effort. Miller says giving shots at schools would be ideal, though in Middle Tennessee that’s happening only in Davidson County.

The Tennessee legislature has also threatened state health officials over promotion of the COVID vaccine to adolescents.

The low demand in some communities is making it difficult for rural health departments, because anyone who wants a shot could have to wait more than 30 minutes to let it thaw. Since so few are asking for the kid doses, local offices don’t want to pull them out of the freezer only to have to throw them away at the end of the day.

Even Dr. Miller’s pediatric practice is sending patients to a larger office in Gallatin, which is also open later in the evening.