TENNESSEE (WJHL) – During a COVID-19 briefing with media Tuesday, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey urged folks to help their elderly loved ones get registered so seniors can get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Piercey explained that though there are many who are vulnerable to COVID-19, age is an important factor to take into consideration.
“It’s a top priority to protect Tennessee senior citizens who are the most vulnerable to hospitalization and death from COVID-19, and we don’t want anyone to miss out on their chance to be protected by vaccination,” Piercey said. “There are vaccination providers in every county of the state, and we urge Tennesseans who are 70 or older to register now for this safe, free and highly effective vaccine that could save their lives.”
She said people aged 70 to 74 have a 70 percent higher rate of death and a 40 percent higher rate of hospitalization from COVID-19 as compared to those aged 65 to 69.
Almost half of the COVID-19 vaccines in the state of Tennessee has gone to those elderly populations, Piercey said, resulting in a third of Tennesseans over the age of 70 being vaccinated.
“The other side of that coin though, is that two out of every three Tennesseans aged 70 plus are unvaccinated. Now, some of those are already on waiting lists, and some of those are actively pursuing vaccination, but I need your help in getting this message out to them,” she said.
Piercey explained that 40% of Tennesseans over the age of 70 live alone, and though some are independent and can register themselves and transport themselves to get the vaccine, others cannot.
“Some of them are very dependent and they help with both technology, transportation and perhaps even just their daily activities, and so it’s not quite as simple as just telling Tennessee’s population, ‘hey, go out and get a vaccine,’ because there’s oftentimes a need for assistance, particularly when it comes to technology.”
This is an issue faced by many in Northeast Tennessee, like Allen Vicars who helped his 78-year-old mother get both her COVID-19 vaccine doses.
“Knowing my mother, she probably would have been hesitant to go on the internet to look up the, I guess, the health department’s website, and I don’t know if she would have really been able to kind of view the dates… but I’m afraid I don’t think she would have been able to do that on her own, because she was very thankful I was there to help her,” Vicars told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.
He explained that he took his mother to get both doses, and that they waited in the car in line to get the vaccine about four hours each time.
Vicars told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that his message to people struggling to figure out the system: “Be patient.”
“Everybody’s wanting the same thing – to get their parents vaccinated or get vaccinated themselves – and it is a long process, I mean, it’s easy to get in a line and get impatient very quickly…and honestly, be thankful that we have a vaccine now and I’m sure that everyone is going to get it in due time, but be proactive too. Basically, keep checking the websites and everything with the health department and also continue to listen to the news,” he said.
TDH is partnering with the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability and the AARP in outreach efforts to inform elder Tennesseans about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and how they may access vaccination, a release accompanied by the media briefing read.
TDH urges family members, community groups, faith organizations, and other individuals and organizations that support seniors to share these resources and help Tennesseans age 70 and up register for their COVID-19 vaccination, the release added.
“We have designated a point of contact within each county to work with the local health department to be looking for these individuals and to be providing some help,” Jim Shulman, Executive Director of the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability said.
Information for senior citizens getting the COVID-19 vaccine
TCAD provided information for older adults about COVID-19 vaccination. AARP also offers a guide for getting your COVID-19 vaccination if you are a senior citizen.
He added that TCAD hosted a call with 141 senior centers across the state asking directors to help set up a network to help older Tennesseans make appointments, or that need transportation assistance to get to a vaccine location.
News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais reached out to local senior centers, all of which remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kingsport Senior Center’s director said the facility will reopen on March 1, and will then help seniors who reach out to them, with vaccine information.
According to the release by TDH, Tennessee will continue to move through phases of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan as vaccine supplies increase each week.
Piercey said the current week’s vaccine supply amounts to 101,000 doses.
Tennesseans can find information on the phases eligible for vaccination in their county and, when eligible, register for vaccination through the 89 state-run county health departments, by clicking HERE.
TDH also has a video to walk people through the online registration process.
Tennessee senior citizens who need transportation assistance to receive COVID-19 vaccination may learn about services offered by the Tennessee Association of Human Resource Agencies by clicking HERE.
View the full TDH media briefing here: