Tennessee To Distribute COVID Vaccine By Population, Not Virus Prevalence

Oct 22, 2020

The Tennessee Department of Health says its experience with vaccination campaigns for other viruses like hepatitis A have offered some preparation for widespread COVID-19 vaccinations.
Credit Blake Farmer | WPLN

When a vaccine for COVID-19 is approved for use, it will be the state government who determines who gets it first. All states were required to submit their draft plans to federal authorities by this week. Tennessee will distribute its allotment based mostly on population, not severity of recent outbreaks.

At first, the priority will be inoculating health care workers and first responders, then the elderly and those who live in congregant settings — including prisons. Whether someone has had COVID won’t matter, according to the planners, since so little is known about the duration of immunity.

Tennessee does expect to hold on to roughly 10% of its vaccine supply in order to respond to hotspots or communities that may run out prematurely.

State health officials say anyone who is relatively young and healthy will likely need to wait to be vaccinated. And children under 12 or women who are pregnant may wait the longest since most vaccines under investigation haven’t been studied for them yet.

Roughly 1,100 providers of various types have signed on to help administer the vaccines, and the state prioritized pharmacies in many rural communities since they can be the only health care institution around aside from the health department.

Leaders with the Tennessee Department of Health stress that their draft plan will evolve as the vaccines get closer to approval. Right now, they don’t know if it will be one dose or two or how many doses they can expect.