BCHD flooded by calls for COVID vaccine

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GETTING THE VACCINE – On Dec. 21, Benton County Sheriff Kenny Christopher was among the first to receive a vaccination for COVID-19 at BCHD.

The Benton County Health Department (BCHD) continues in its efforts to administer COVID-19 vaccinations as described in the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. According to data provided by the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), about four percent of Benton County citizens had received a vaccine by the end of Jan. 4.

All together, Tennessee county health department staff members administered more than 27,000 COVID-19 vaccinations during the New Year’s weekend. More than 169,070 total vaccinations have been administered statewide as of Monday.

Per staff at the BCHD, phones have not stopped ringing since the vaccine became available. Tennessee has begun age-based vaccination in 10-year age brackets, starting last week with those aged 75 and above. BCHD staff are contacting each person who calls or leaves a message requesting an appointment or more information. With the unprecedented influx of calls, it may take some time to return each call.

“We are pleased with the overwhelming interest Tennesseans are showing in receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, and are working as quickly as possible to provide vaccinations as we receive additional shipments,” said TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. “COVID-19 vaccines remain very limited at this time, and Tennessee’s allocation plan prioritizes those most at risk of illness and death.”

Further, the availability of vaccines varies by county. Tennessee is currently working to vaccinate Phase 1a populations and those aged 75 and up as vaccine supplies are available.  Phase 1a is subdivided: Phase 1a1 for in-patient health care providers; first responders with direct exposure to the public; and staff members and residents of long-term care facilities; and Phase 1a2 for those primarily working in outpatient health care settings. 

It is important to note Tennessee counties may progress through COVID-19 vaccination phases at different times, depending on supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and the level of priority assigned to each county based on various risk factors. To learn what phase Benton County is in at any given time, visit https://covid19.tn.gov/covid-19-vaccines/vaccine-phases/.  

As staff at BCHD vaccinate those aged 75 years and older, pharmacies will also be administering vaccines for long-term care facility residents and employees. Although this may result in smaller shipments to county health departments, it is critical to get vaccines to those who are the highest risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

TDH continues to update the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan and its phased approach to administering COVID-19 vaccines based on new recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Tennessee’s Unified Command Group, and a stakeholder group of more than 30 partner organizations. These phases are subject to additional changes as vaccinations progress.

TDH reminds all Tennesseans that in addition to vaccination, wearing a face mask, maintaining social distance, washing hands frequently, and getting tested when exposed or sick are critical to controlling the pandemic.

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