Tennessee to move to next COVID-19 vaccine phase, in part due to lack of demand – Tennessean

Brett Kelman   | Nashville Tennessean

Tennessee will transition to the next stage of coronavirus vaccine distribution on Monday, offering doses to more than a million residents of all ages with serious health conditions, state officials announced this week.

This transition is caused by a combination of surging vaccine supply and vaccine hesitancy, which has left doses sitting unused in some rural counties where fewer people want the vaccine, said Dr. Lisa Piercey, the Tennessee health commissioner.

Piercey said this week the state would move ahead to Phase “1C” as some counties – currently vaccinating teachers and people age 65 and older – had run out of eligible residents seeking vaccine.

“I’ve got about 12 or 15 counties statewide who are sitting on product because they don’t have a demand,” Piercey said on Monday. “They are wanting to go to 1C already, and we just started 1B on Monday of last week.”

Tennessee’s rapid advancement through vaccine phases is a double-edged sword. This next phase will open availability to one of the largest population groups in the state and help protect Tennesseans with serious conditions that make them much more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Tennessee has above-average rates of most of these conditions, so much of the state is now poised for vaccination.

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However, part of the reason the state has advanced so quickly is a lack of interest in vaccination in some rural areas, where Piercey said as few as 30% of eligible residents seek out the vaccine. They may leave lingering pockets of vulnerability in rural areas, which are already generally less healthy than Tennessee’s more metropolitan counties. Counties where fewer residents decide to be vaccinated will likely stay susceptible to outbreaks long after other areas have achieved herd immunity.

“We are going to continue to live with this, and at some point there will be a transition from a pandemic to just an endemic, which is what flu is,” Piercey said. “You will see it pop up every now and then, and I do expect us to continue seeing outbreaks where vaccine uptake is low.”

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Eligible conditions: Obesity, diabetes, HIV, dementia, cancer and more

The transition to vaccination phase “1C” opens eligibility up to all Tennesseans age 16 and older who are diagnosed with a list of conditions that make them high risk for coronavirus complications.

According to the state’s vaccination plan, that list includes: Current cancer treatment, chronic renal disease, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma, obesity, heart failure, hypertension, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease or stroke, liver disease or dementia.

The vaccine is also eligible to anyone who is immunocompromised due to a medical condition, like HIV, or a medical procedure, like an organ transplant. The population also includes pregnant women and their household contacts, Piercey said. 

“That is a large population. We have estimated it to be in excess of 1.1 million Tennesseans,” Piercey said at a Tuesday briefing. “Unfortunately, we have high rates of many of these chronic diseases … and so we expect quite a bit of demand.”

Tennessee should be able to handle this demand due to rapidly expanding vaccine supplies. This week the state expects to get 196,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine – plus another 54,000 doses of the new single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine – which should be enough doses to full vaccinate about 152,000 people.

Vaccine supplies are projected to dip in the next two weeks because no more J&J vaccine will be immediately provided, then surge higher than ever toward the end of March, Piercey said.

“By the end of the month, it is plausible we could be getting 300,000 plus vaccines per week,” she said. “That thrills me. It is quite the opposite of what I was telling just 30 days ago, when we were struggling to get maybe even 80,000 a week in the state.”

Although the state as a whole is transitioning to this vaccination phase, the transition is unlikely to immediately occur in major cities like Nashville or Memphis, where local officials had more authority over the vaccine rollout. Cities generally proceed at a slower pace because they have far more residents to vaccinate.

Brett Kelman is the health care reporter for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 615-259-8287 or at brett.kelman@tennessean.com. Follow him on Twitter at @brettkelman.

Sorgente articolo:
Tennessee to move to next COVID-19 vaccine phase, in part due to lack of demand – Tennessean

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