NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While Tennessee has steadily remained in the top three states for COVID-19 cases this week, we are behind a majority of our neighboring states in administering the Pfizer vaccine.
Some in the medical field are questioning why Tennessee didn’t make history Monday when we received our first shipment of the vaccine. Instead of distributing it, the state is holding it as an emergency backup supply in case any of the vaccines now headed our way are damaged.
“I don’t know all of the reasons that went in to the decision for holding that 975 back, but if any of it was to create a rainy-day stockpile, let me just tell you, there is a hurricane blowing,” proclaimed Critical Care Physician Dr. Jason Martin.
Blowing Tennessee to the number one spot in the country with 1,215 cases per million according to covidexitstrategy.org.
Today, Tennessee doctors are pleading for relief as hospitals reach capacity.
“We need the vaccine to be administered and distributed as quickly as possible because time is essentially lives for our frontline providers,” stated Dr. Martin.
The stringent, cold storage requirements for the Pfizer vaccine are complicating the handling and distribution.
“The logistics are complicated, but I can tell you the vaccine is needed immediately,” Infectious Diseases Physician Dr. Isaac Thomsen told News 2.
At least 56,550 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to be delivered to 28 sites covering 74 Tennessee hospitals on Thursday. Officials with the state are saying the initial vaccine shipments are being sent to large hospitals with emergency departments and intensive care units with higher risk frontline workers the priority.
“We also need to get this vaccine to healthcare workers as soon as possible. We are losing all types of healthcare providers to this illness in terms of being out for long periods of time,” said Dr. Laura Lyons.
This, as the state holds the first batch of the Pfizer vaccine.
“It’s crucial that we figure out how to get that allocated and there certainly seems to be no indication for holding on to these or stockpiling anything for a future time when it’s needed. The doses are needed now and hopefully those logistics can be worked out really soon,” said Thomsen.
We reached out to Governor Bill Lee’s administration asking why Tennessee is behind other states in administering the vaccine. They responded with the below statement:
“Given the Pfizer vaccine’s very specific storage and handling requirements, coupled with geography and population distribution of our state, we sought to eliminate, or minimize, additional transportation and redistribution with selected hospitals receiving their Pfizer vaccine shipments directly. There are 28 sites with ultra-cold storage capabilities across the state that will receive the shipment directly. This will allow hospitals to begin administering the vaccine as soon as it arrives. The state is holding a small amount in reserve should any shipments be found to be damaged upon delivery.”
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
COVID-19 in Tennessee
(This reflects what the TDH reports each day. )