Tennessee releases initial distribution plan for eventual COVID-19 vaccine

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Department of Health has announced the state’s infrastructure plan for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once they become available.

The Health Department, in coordination with other state and local agencies, submitted an initial draft of the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan for Tennessee on Oct. 16 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We assure Tennesseans that safe, effective and approved COVID-19 vaccines will be released in Tennessee when they are available to reduce the spread of the virus,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said. “Our vaccine distribution plan will be modified as more is understood about the virus and the availability of approved vaccines currently in development.”

The structure of the plan includes distribution of the vaccine to all 95 counties, including a targeted distribution to the “highly vulnerable”:

  • 5% of Tennessee’s allocation of COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed equitably among all 95 counties.
  • 10% of Tennessee’s allocation of COVID-19 vaccines will be reserved by the state for use in targeted areas with high vulnerability to illness and death from the virus.
  • 85% of Tennessee’s allocation of COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed among all 95 counties based on their populations.

TDH says the allocation models the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdictional Operations and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine. Tennessee’s Unified Command Group and a stakeholder group of more than 28 partner agencies and offices were also involved in the plan.

A press briefing was held Wednesday to roll out the draft plans submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by Governor Bill Lee’s administration. Dr. Lisa Piercey, the Tennessee Commissioner of Health previewed the plans in a briefing yesterday. Piercey wants to stress to Tennesseans the plans released today are drafts and can change at any time.

Tennessee health officials say it is not  yet clear how many vaccines will be dispersed nationwide, however, the state will receive 2% of that total.

The draft plan establishes an order for who will receive first access to the vaccines in a phased order.

Out of the 2% national total, 5% of the vaccine will be sent to all 95 counties equally. The next 10% will be allocated to those at a heightened risk for COVID-19 infection and those in target areas where the state has seen more deaths during the pandemic. The remaining 85% will be spread out to counties based on population.

The state says first doses of the vaccine will go to frontline workers, first responders and health care workers. Next will be K-12 childcare staff and older adults. According to the state, children and young adults will most likely be the last to receive vaccines.

“TDH will ensure implementation of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program through tracking of
provider enrollment, mapping of locations of vaccination services, monitoring performance of
the Tennessee Immunization Information System and tracking of vaccine ordering and
distribution,” a statement from the state Heath Department states.

“TDH is working to rapidly recruit and onboard hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and other partners
capable of storing vaccine and administering it to priority populations.”

The groups storing and administering the vaccine will be required to sign an agreement with TDH, have the ability to store the vaccine and establish a process for reporting administered doses.

According to the department, they will ensure the vaccine will be distributed to sites in all 95 counties, “especially in rural counties and areas with high concentrations of people in vulnerable populations.”

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