NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Making sure the vulnerable get their COVID-19 vaccine first is what the State of Tennessee is saying as officials prepare for more shipments of vaccines. The health department estimates that there are about 300,000 Tennesseans in the 70 to 74-year-old age group, and so far, only one in three have been vaccinated.
Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan prioritizes those at highest risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19.
People aged 70 to 74 have a 70% higher rate of death and a 40% higher rate of hospitalization from COVID-19 as compared to those aged 65 to 69.
"Two out of every three Tennesseans age 70 plus are unvaccinated. Now some of those are already on a waiting list and some of those are actively pursuing vaccinations," said Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr.Lisa Piercey.
The elderly are among the most at-risk for complications and even though hospitalizations are down, Dr. Piercey says more needs to be done to help protect this group.
"Right now, the responsible and loving thing to do in Tennessee is to get our seniors vaccinated first," said Dr. Piercey.
More than 270,000 Tennessee seniors have been vaccinated, which Dr. Piercey says is about 47% of the vaccines the state has been given.
Senior centers are stepping in to help.
"All we're simply asking them to do is to reach out to their seniors center participants check and see if they need help making a vaccination appointment," said Jim Shulman, executive director for Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.
Shulman says getting all seniors vaccinated will be a team effort.
"All we want to do is to be able to reach out seniors that we serve and help them navigate this vaccination process, whether it's with information, whether is transportation, whatever it is," Shulman said.
The state was initially told it would have 93,000 vaccine doses for the first three weeks in February. The state is up to 101,000 this week and could see more.