Tennessee 'sending' back millions of vaccine doses due to low demand

Posted at 6:36 PM, Jun 28, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee has sent back some three million doses of vaccine to the federal government as the state department of health struggles to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

The Tennessee Department of Health is reporting a lowering demand for vaccines across the state. Vaccine hesitancy is high in rural areas and in some minority communities.

Because of the reluctance to receive the vaccine, the state has "sent" back doses to be used elsewhere, but that doesn't mean what you likely think it means.

While the state is refusing some of the federal allocations, it's to allow the federal government to send the vaccine elsewhere. Other states still have a high demand for vaccines.

"It's not like we get a big shipment and then we have to send them back to a warehouse," said Dept. of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. "This is a paper transaction only. That's reflective of what we see across the state. There is more hesitancy and we're to sort of grinding to a halt. The people who want it have gotten it and they're good to go."

Full Interview with Dr. Lisa Piercey on vaccine hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy is a problem in Tennessee. Rural communities are seeing few vaccinations.

"Our supply exceeded our demand. And so, we realized we don't need this weekly allocation. So, we do continue to order but it's based on what the provider tells us," she said.

Dr. Piercey said the vaccine has also proven to be more resilient and the suppliers now say there's a longer shelf life than 14 days as originally thought.

Despite hesitancy, there are still about 90,000 doses of vaccine given per week in the state. Dr. Piercey said it's reassuring.