The Tennessee Department of Health is setting aside a portion of its COVID-19 vaccines for communities that are poorer and have more people of color, but one minority leader says that is not good enough.
After this current first phase, the state will reserve 5 percent of the vaccine for those areas, CBS News reported.
Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the NAACP Tennessee State Conference, told CBS News’ Anne-Marie Green that 5 percent is not enough, even for a “small” county where she lives — Haywood.
Green focused on how Tennessee is putting healthcare workers and seniors “at the front of the line” ahead of minorities, who were disproportionally affected by the virus.
Sweet-Love said she worried that even before having a vaccine, people are not taking the virus seriously. For example, she criticized churches in her area who are meeting in-person and exposing people through singing.
Meanwhile, Tennessee is distributing the vaccine.
The state’s current distribution steps are available here. The first Pfizer doses (55,560 total) were given starting last Thursday, while the fist Moderna doses (115,000) became available Monday.
Tennessee’s overarching vaccine distribution plan is available here.
The plan says “high-exposure” healthcare workers, first responders and nursing home residents have been receiving the first doses this month. The state says it has Phases 1-4, but within Phase 1, there are three subphases, labeled 1a1 (the current stage), 1a2 and 1b. Phase 1a2 is additional healthcare workers. Phase 1b is for people with high-risk comorbidities such as cancer, HIV and sickle cell anemia.
The state health department has a stakeholder group that helps make decisions on distribution.
The group is comprised of more than 30 different offices, agencies, and departments representing public health, rural health, refugee and other minority populations, legislators, experts in bioethics, medical societies, communications experts, health care coalitions, emergency management, and others.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Johnson is testing a vaccine in Memphis and is seeking minorities to participate, Fox 13 reported. Vanderbilt Medical Center also is searching for people 60 or older, or minorities, to participate in the Johnson and Johnson vaccine trials, WVLT reported.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.