Mayor’s statements alert Tennessee health officials of ‘more significant violations’ in Shelby Co. vaccine management


A medical staff member prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG/WKRN) — This week the Tennessee Department of Health provided information on the investigation of reported wastage of COVID-19 vaccine by the Shelby County Health Department, which found seven incidents of vaccine waste, amounting to more than 2,400 wasted doses. The investigation also uncovered an excess of about 30,000 doses.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said he still had confidence in the leadership of the health department and the county’s side of the story hadn’t been told.

“There was 50,000 doses on the shelf. But a lot of those doses were for teacher vaccinations and for missed appointments, so a lot of this story hasn’t been told,” Harris said. “So we’re going to tell this story and put out the right information.”

Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey released a statement saying Mayor Harris’s comments alerted them to more significant violations in the county’s vaccine program.

“With today’s confirmation of stockpiling the vaccine, the mayor‘s statements have alerted us to yet another significant violation with the Shelby County Health Department’s vaccine management. These statements reflect that vaccines were inappropriately withheld from an in-phase population over the course of several weeks. Stockpiling for a later phase is not authorized, and this action unnecessarily prohibited high-risk elderly individuals from receiving their fair share of this limited and life-saving resource.”

The head of the Shelby County Health Department said Wednesday that corrective measures are underway after the state found numerous problems with its COVID-19 vaccine distribution system. Dr. Alisa Haushalter said they have already made some personnel changes and are actively looking to review and adopt state policies. The health department is also working closely with the state to finalize a remediation plan.

From availability to current phases, find vaccine information for every Tennessee county using News 2’s Vaccine Tracker map.

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