The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) announced Wednesday that it would be moving teachers and educational staff up on the vaccine priority list. TDH estimated that teachers and educational staff may receive vaccines starting around February or March of 2021.
This updated plan for vaccine distribution occurs in months-long waves: Phases 1a1, 1a2, 1b, 1c, 2a/b, and 3. Teachers and educational staff fall into Phase 1b. The last several phases don’t have projected dates as of yet. Those who qualify solely through age-based criteria will be eligible to receive their vaccine beginning in Phase 1a2, starting with those over 75 years old.
Mid-December marked the first wave of vaccinations. The first phase included inpatient healthcare workers, inpatient residents, long-term care facility staff and residents, first responders, and anyone over 18 years old unable to live independently due to a medical condition or disability. Also included as a first priority are those over 65 years old and are considered obese, or have cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, an organ transplant, serious cardiac diseases, sickle cell disease, or diabetes.
For most of the state, the second phase of vaccinations is expected to begin in the coming weeks. Those receiving the vaccine for the next month will include outpatient healthcare workers as well as funeral and mortuary workers. However, officials shared that smaller and more rural counties were able to move onto the next phases of the vaccination plan, due to less vaccines needed.
In mid-November, Pfizer selected Tennessee as one of four pilot states to administer its COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly a month later, the state received its first shipments of the vaccine. The first doses were administered just days later as part of the state’s first phase.
In total, the state estimated that nearly 2 million people will receive the vaccine by the end of the last phase. That covers nearly 30 percent of Tennessee’s population, which is around 6.8 million people. Public health officials have stated that complete herd immunity requires 80 to 90 percent vaccination rates.
In order for mask and social distancing requirements to be lifted, officials stated that at least 70 percent of the population needed vaccination. Immunization Medical Director Michelle Fiscus told The Tennessean that the state wouldn’t reach that number until August 2021, at least.
According to the latest data from Tennessee’s COVID-19 website uploaded Tuesday, over 79,000 individuals have received a vaccine. As of Wednesday, that number reached 90,000. State health officials had hoped to vaccinate over double that number by the end of the year.
Spokespersons with TDH didn’t respond to a request for comment on these numbers from The Tennessee Star by press time.
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