TDH commissioner confident vaccines will be available to all adults before May 1

Dr. Lisa Piercey
Posted at 1:57 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 19:38:14-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said she feels confident the state will be able to offer all adults a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1.

Piercey made the announcement during her weekly update on the state's response to COVID-19 and Tennessee's ongoing vaccination efforts.

Watch the full update below:

During his address to the nation last week, President Joe Biden said he will direct states to make vaccines available to all adults by May 1. Piercey said Tuesday Tennessee is anticipating two increases in the number of vaccine doses the state receives that would allow TDH to offer vaccines to all adults before that deadline.

Demand for the vaccine in the Middle Tennessee region and the state's metro areas has been high, however, Piercey said statewide in more rural areas, the demand has been lower than expected. Piercey said many vaccine appointments in rural areas of Tennessee go unfilled. The commissioner explained 80% of the state's appointments in Middle Tennessee, excluding Davidson County, are full. But in East Tennessee, just 50% are full and less than 20% of appointment slots are filled in rural West Tennessee.

Dr. Piercey said fully vaccinated residents may be able to help increase vaccine turnout.

"It's very important to tell your story when you get vaccinated because we understand that people don't trust the government, and we understand that there is sometimes questions about vaccines that they don't get sufficient answers to, but when they see friends and family get vaccinated they think I can do this," said Dr. Lisa Piercey.

As Tennessee gets more vaccine shipped to the state counties that have seen less interest in the COVID-19 vaccine will not get as much.

"When we allocate each week, we look at the inventory that's there and if they have plenty of inventory we don't send more. We haven't had an instance where we've had to move large amounts of vaccine, but I anticipate there is going to be more reshuffling as we get broader and broader and closer to the end of the vaccine campaign where everybody has it," Dr. Piercey said.

The state moved into phase 1c of the vaccine distribution plan last week, which includes the high-risk population. As of March 15, almost 2 million vaccinations have been reported across the state, with 684,950 Tennesseans having completed either both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.