NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- Officials with the Tennessee Department of Health said in just a matter of days, it will vastly expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Starting Monday, the state of Tennessee will move to phase 1c. That means most health districts will be offering the vaccine to more people.
The state estimates that includes about 1.1 million Tennesseans who will become eligible in just under a week.
In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey said starting Monday, March 8, all people age 16 and older who have high-risk medical conditions will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Piercey said the decision to move to Phase 1c came after the state learned from federal health officials that there will soon be a significant increase in the amount of vaccine coming to the state.
“This is a massive population, and the reason we’re going to go ahead and speed up and go to that phase is in anticipation for this large surplus of vaccine that we expect in the next two to three weeks”
The state’s age-based eligibility will remain 65 and older.
Phase 1c includes women who are pregnant, the caregivers of medically fragile children, and people with high risk medical conditions like obesity, hypertension, COPD, and diabetes.
Piercey also said Tuesday, the state of Tennessee will receive 54,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine this week in addition to almost 200,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
She said the state’s rural health departments have more than 250,000 open appointments for the vaccine over the next several weeks.
You can watch Tuesday’s Tennessee Department of Health media briefing on our WJHL Facebook page below.
Dr. Stephen May, Director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that the county won’t open to Phase 1c until March 15 due to lack of supply.
“This is a very large group, a complex group to tackle. It will be a challenge. We all know that the incidences of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, is fairly significant within our region, and when you start adding those together, it makes the group even larger,” he said. “We’re anticipating, of course, getting a portion of that 54,000 doses that’s coming to Tennessee, and that’s one reason we’re having to delay for about a week, is to be sure we’ve got that extra doses of the vaccine so that we really can open up efficiently to that group.”
May said age is practically insignificant when moving to Phase 1c.
“Age does not play in the phase of 1C, in that if you have any of those conditions, we will want to get you vaccinated, now realize that the vaccine has age limitations: Pfizer is 16 and up, Moderna is 18 and up, along with the J&J vaccine,” he said.
Evelyn Hart contracted COVID-19 in February 2020. She one of the first reported cases in Carter County.
She told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that she also suffers from severe asthma and diabetes, which was worsened by her coronavirus diagnosis.
The coronavirus left Hart with severe, long-lasting symptoms that have prompted multiple doctors to order further medical testing.
“If I were to contract COVID again to the severity that I had it last February, it could be devastating to me. Therefore, I have wanted the COVID vaccine since day one. I think it’s highly important to have it. I think it’s important for everybody to receive it to stop this roller coaster that we have been on for the last year,” she said.
She said she understands the hesitation some might have against getting the vaccine, but she cannot wait.
“I think everyone is going to have a concern regarding the vaccine because it did come out so quickly, however, from everything I’ve researched and everything that I have personally heard, the cons do not outweigh the positives of the vaccine,” Hart said. “I wish it would’ve been open a lot sooner than Monday but I am so thankful that it has opened. I have already been to the website to try to get registered for it. However, apparently it’s not open yet, so can’t wait for it to open to get that vaccine.”