NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee health officials unveiled a preliminary plan today for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, placing a priority on front-line health care workers and first responders who are at greatest risk.
Officials emphasized that little is known right now about which vaccine will be available and what quantities, so the plan is likely to change in the weeks ahead.
"We assure Tennesseans that safe, effective and approved COVID-19 vaccines will be released in Tennessee when they are available to reduce the spread of the virus," said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey in a statement.
"Our vaccine distribution plan will be modified as more is understood about the virus and the availability of approved vaccines currently in development."
Under the Tennessee Department of Health's initial plan, the coronavirus vaccine will be rolled out as follows:
- 85 percent will distributed among Tennessee's 95 counties based strictly on population.
- Five percent will go to the 95 counties based on still-to-be-determined calculations of health needs within those communities.
- The last 10 percent will be held by the state for use in targeted areas where there may be a more urgent need.
The Department of Health is recruiting hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and other partners in every county who will be capable of storing and administering the vaccine based on priorities set by the state.
Hospitals with emergency departments and intensive care units will receive the initial allocations, according to the plan, "as they see patients with the highest acuity and risk for transmission to their employees."
County health departments will also receive limited doses to provide to first responders.
In both cases, "hospitals and health departments will prioritize health care workers and first responders meeting certain criteria that place them at higher risk of severe morbidity and mortality from COVID-19.
According to the state, the list of priorities after front-line health care workers and first responders will likely be:
- Health care workers in other settings not directly involved in treating COVID patients
- Older individuals with comorbidities that place them at higher risk and those in congregate care facilities such as nursing homes
- Educators and childcare staff with comorbidities
- Other individuals in congregate care living facilities where social distancing is difficult
Tennessee health officials hope that the vaccine will be universally available to anyone who wants one by the middle of 2021, although there is not likely to be a vaccine approved for children or pregnant women.
The distribution plan will not exclude those previously diagnosed with the coronavirus since there is no evidence that immunity is long-lasting.
Tennessee expects to receive about two percent of the national allocation.