Knox County Health Dept. ‘pushing out vaccine as fast as we can get it’

COVID-19 Vaccine

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan asked for patience and flexibility Tuesday as the initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a fluid process.

Buchanan said Tuesday she is pleased with the eagerness to get the vaccine and the result of Saturday’s COVID-19 vaccination event at the Knoxville Expo Center.

“We know the demand will likely outpace supply for a while,” she said. “We are pushing out (the) vaccine as fast as we can get it.”

Buchanan addressed several issues and questions during the regular twice-weekly briefing.

The department is working on multiple ways to distribute the vaccine including appointments and clinics. Tuesday marked two weeks since the Health Department received its first COVID-19 vaccine shipment from the state.

Buchanan said issues with manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer shipping their vaccines to Tennessee, the state Department of Health’s allocation, the organizing of the local distribution, and caring for the vaccine so as not to waste it — are part of the reason why so few doses were offered in the first clinic.

“We’re just getting started,” she said. “It’s a little slow and clunky at the beginning. We’ll get into our stride and we’ll have regular amounts of vaccine coming to us. We’re hopeful that that will happen in the near future.”

Those eligible for receiving the vaccine under the Tennessee Department of Health’s plan in either Phase 1a1, Phase 1a2, or age 75 and older have been having issues reaching KCHD by phone. Buchanan said there are eight people handling calls for the department but more are being trained to handle the “incredibly high volume” of calls they are receiving.

Buchanan said to keep trying and keep up to date with the department’s social media and news briefings to learn about vaccine clinics and appointments. For those seeking a vaccination but may not be able to attend a clinic, Buchanan said more vaccine is coming and more appointments will be made when possible.

The Knox County Health Department is not vaccinating at long-term care or nursing homes in the county. Those vaccinations are being done through a federal program coordinated with the state Department of Health and retail pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS.

Buchanan said the priority for distributing the vaccine to those who are homebound or unable to leave their home is more on the caretakers. Calling it a “cocoon of safety” Buchanan said vaccinating caretakers and home healthcare workers against the virus prevents the spread to shut-ins.

A total number of vaccinations distributed to Knox County residents will be given during Thursday’s KCHD briefing.

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