The Tennessee Department of Health announced Tuesday it would expand access to COVID-19 vaccines to teachers and individuals age 65 and older.
“While we remain focused on our seniors, who are the highest-risk population, we’re able to expand vaccine eligibility to these additional groups as our supply continues to grow each week,” Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of health, said during a press briefing on Tuesday.
Beginning Feb. 22, teachers and others in the 1b phase and individuals 65 years old and older can register for vaccine appointments.
Some counties have already been offering vaccines to the 1b group, though Cumberland County has offered vaccines to the 1a1 and 1a2 groups and the 70+ group to date.
Data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows 12,871 vaccines have been administered in the county, with 8,549 people receiving at least one dose and 4,308 people fully vaccinated.
Vaccination counts in the county include 2,261 people over the age of 81; 4,259 people between the ages of 71-80; 743 between the ages of 61-70; 479 between the ages of 51-60; 352 people between the ages of 41-50; 248 people between the ages of 31-40; 187 people between the ages of 21-30; and 20 people between the ages of 16-20.
The first phases of the vaccine rollout included healthcare workers, first responders, individuals over 18 who cannot live independently, medically fragile individuals, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
Piercey said some of the larger metro areas of the state are moving slower on vaccinating their populations. While the vaccines are allocated to Tennessee’s 95 counties based on population, Piercey said some of the rural counties have a much lower rate of people wanting to be vaccinated and are developing a surplus.
“That is why we are pushing further, faster in those counties with the phases, because they have people who are eligible but don’t want it,” Piercey said.
She anticipates an increase in the state’s allocation of doses to about 110,000 per week. In addition, a third vaccine is seeking approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose and could begin being distributed the first week in March.
Tennessee is currently distributing the two-dose vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna.
The state has also launched online vaccine appointment scheduling. Individuals in the qualifying groups can register for a vaccine appointment at vaccinate.tn.gov. If you have already registered for a COVID-19 vaccination, you do not need to re-register in the new system.
Individuals without internet access may continue to schedule appointments by phone at 931-484-6196.
The Cumberland County Health Department was closed through Thursday this week due to inclement weather. It had announced on Monday there would be no COVID-19 testing or vaccines available at the Cumberland County Community Complex due to the poor weather conditions.
Individuals with scheduled appointments will be contacted to reschedule their vaccine.
The state also announced Tuesday it would revise its 1c group to include pregnant women. They don’t have an exact time for when that group, which includes people with medical conditions that make them more likely to suffer more severe bouts of COVID-19, can receive the vaccine, but they anticipate moving to that phase sometime in March.
The state has also partnered with local pharmacies to provide new vaccination sites across the state.
“These pharmacies and clinics are easily accessible to Tennesseans who have barriers to receiving health care, like lack of transportation or health insurance,” Piercey said. “We’re bringing COVID-19 vaccines to familiar and convenient locations for residents of these communities to receive their vaccinations.”
Individuals must be part of an eligible group to receive the vaccines, which are provided at no charge. Young Pharmacy in Crossville has been selected as a community pharmacy vaccination location.
On Wednesday, there were 112 active cases of COVID-19 in the county. There have been 112 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began in March.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.