NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — As COVID-19 cases and numbers increase across Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee and his staff provided a hopeful update on vaccine distribution across the state.
“We are 100% prepared to receive and immediately distribute vaccines as soon as we have it in hand,” said Commissioner of Health, Dr. Lisa Piercey. “Even when we start vaccinating small numbers of folk…100,000, 200,000…I know that doesn’t seem like a lot in the context of 6.8 million Tennesseans… that’s 200,000 people that are not transmitting the disease.”
Tennessee is preparing for two different vaccines to arrive in the coming weeks. The Pfizer vaccine is expected to come around December 15 and the Moderna vaccine about a week later.
“We will likely be able to get through phase one and possibly a portion — if not all — of phase two in the winter and early spring… phase two to three would be spring moving into summer and then widespread availability will likely be late spring or early summer,” said Dr. Piercey. “We’ve seen estimates of July and August for widespread availability.”
The state will move through its phased plan as supply allows. Phase one will be health care and frontline workers who could come into contact with the virus. Phase two is for those considered to be essential workers. Phase three will be for certain industries and children if one is approved, and phase four is for the general public.
“[The vaccines are] going to be very important for us in this state to curb the spread of the virus and to ultimately really be able to handle it,” said Governor Bill Lee. “But vaccines are a choice and people have the choice and will have the choice in this state as to whether or not they should take that vaccine.”
While it’s promising that vaccine arrival is on the horizon, health care officials are still encouraging everyone to wear masks and social distance.
“With extremely promising news regarding future vaccine availability, it’s looking more and more likely that our celebrations will be back to normal next year,” said Tennessee Hospital Association President, Dr. Wendy Long.