In a letter to Memphis Mayor Strickland, Governor Bill Lee refuted recent claims that the COVID-19 vaccines weren’t distributed equally to Shelby County.
“[I]t has been reported that Shelby County has not received an equitable share of vaccine doses relative to other counties across the state. However – and I want to be clear and unmistakable about this – any such claims are incorrect,” stated Lee.
The letter explained, in detail, the summary of vaccine allocation proportionate to population, totaling over 104,000 vaccines distributed.
Last week, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland explained that the county was experiencing a temporary shortage of vaccines.
“[T]he reality is that the fault is not with the state or local governments, it lies with the manufacturers of the vaccines. In at least two news reports this morning, it was stated that vaccines will most likely be in shorter supply through March of this year,” wrote Strickland. “All that to say, once supplies normalize – I want you to know we are ready to deliver vaccinations as quickly as possible to everyone in Memphis and Shelby County who wants to receive it.”
However, some claimed that vaccinations weren’t being distributed properly. On Monday, Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) accused the governor in a letter of not ensuring fair allocation of vaccines to the Memphis area.
“As you know, Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates. Of the 1,169 Memphis who have died thus far, 673 were Black. It is unconscionable that Shelby County is the county which, by the state’s own calculations, has the lowest percentage of its population vaccinated,” wrote Cohen. “[R]ecent news reports indicate that the county is last when it comes to vaccination rates. These reports contradict your Administration’s announced policy of giving inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas an additional 5 percent increase in vaccine allocations.”
Shelby County is dead last in vaccination rates in TN.
@POTUS is issuing guidance for equitable, science-based distribution, but I also wrote to @GovBillLee to urge him to proactively resolve this unconscionable imbalance. Memphis needs a fair allocation of vaccines now! pic.twitter.com/dLEPaeUzi3
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) January 25, 2021
In Lee’s response letter, he cautioned individuals from looking at TennIIS, the state’s immunization information system, to discern the vaccine allocation data.
“Administration data is necessarily limited to information actually uploaded by local health departments and providers once doses are used, and we understand there may be a temporary need to focus manpower on actual dose administration at the expense of timely reporting data to the state. This naturally results in artificially low administration rate numbers in some areas, and perhaps also discounts tremendous local effort to vaccinate residents.”
Cohen’s spokespersons didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
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