Shelby County residents share vaccination experience after long lines, confusion at Pipkin Building

Coronavirus

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Shelby County leaders have clarified that you are required to make an appointment to get a coronavirus vaccination at the Pipkin Building. While some tell WREG they had to show proof of that appointment, they reported other elements of their experience that may be slipping through the cracks and causing backup.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Charlotte Freeman got her first vaccine after a long morning Thursday.

“Even though my appointment was at 9:30, I came at 8:30, I did not get finished until 12,” Freeman said.

That’s not the only issue Freeman noticed during her long wait time.

“When I went on the website there were 45 slots from the 9 to 9:30 slot.  I signed up for the 9:30 slot, which was another 45 people. I came expecting only 90 people to potentially be ahead of me and clearly that was not the case,” Freeman said.

County officials say you must have an appointment to get a vaccine. They reiterated that Thursday.

“When people get to the line they are asked if they have an appt and to show that appointment,” Shelby County Healthy Department director Alisa Haushalter said.

WREG cameras spotted deputies checking that paperwork as cars entered the fairgrounds, and the people we spoke with all said they made appointments.

More information on COVID-19 vaccinations in Shelby County

But there are a few problems.

For one, one woman says she arrived around 10:30 a.m. and made it through the line by 1:30 p.m., all well in advance of her 2 p.m. appointment.

The other issue involves eligibility.

We spoke with several people who probably didn’t realize they’re not actually qualified to get the vaccine yet in Shelby County. As shown on the health department’s website, right now they’re only supposed to be for first responders, healthcare and funeral workers and people over 75. 

One woman said her age qualified her to get the vaccine, but stated she was 65.

Another man said he was 72 with heart problems.

A third woman did not state her age but said she brought a doctor’s note.

Freeman says she followed the instructions where health department officials say to bring “proof of eligibility, including proof of age, a professional license, or a letter from an employer.”

“I had my license with me in case they checked that. They did not ask me for that,” Freeman said.

We have asked the Shelby County Health Department what they’re doing to enforce eligibility requirements, but we are still waiting to hear back.

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