MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Data from the state department of health appears to show Shelby County lagging behind the rest of the state in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Local health officials say those numbers are relative and, while there are clear areas for improvement, we’re on the right track.
“We’ve initiated a vaccine program that’s never been done before in the history of the world,” said Dr. Scott Strome, vice chancellor of clinical affairs at University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.
The state’s vaccination dashboard shows nearly 6% of people in Shelby County have received their first dose.
That’s lower than state numbers, and lowe than places like the Nashville metro area, which reports 8% of its population has its first dose.
A spokesperson with the health department also noted there’s a delay in reporting vaccination data to the state by certain providers, so the actual numbers are higher than reflected.
Health leaders here say, when looking at vaccine distribution, it’s important to see the big picture.
Shelby County has administered more than 76,000 doses, which amounts to about 75% of its allocation.
“That’s a pretty respectable number,” Strome said. “I don’t want people to think that the doses are not being given out because they are.”
Strome says moving forward, the priority should be getting more vaccines and making sure there’s equitable distribution.
“We need to do better providing vaccinations for our communities of color and specifically, really targeting our hispanic communities,” he said.
The health department acknowledged the disparity and is working to address it.
FEMA is in town this week to help with the vaccine rollout. Doctors say these are all steps in the right direction in the fight against COVID-19.
“We still have work to do but I’m proud of our effort to date,” Strome said.
One county over, Fayette County has no more vaccine available, the state data shows. Fayette is the only county in the WREG area with no vaccine left to give.
As of Friday, almost 5,800 people in Fayette County had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 2,400 have received both shots required for full effectiveness.