Gov. Lee says state is “intervening” after Shelby Co. wastes vaccine doses

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee addressed a Shelby County debacle Wednesday after county health officials recently wasted 2,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are disappointed with what’s happened in Shelby County,” Gov. Lee said, “We swiftly took action.”

The governor says state officials are now in Shelby County to oversee operations.

“What we’re doing is intervening,” he said, “Taking over would mean halting the process for a period of time.”

Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter partly blames the botched plan on last week’s winter storm that forced vaccination sites to close.

“Things have not gone perfectly,” she said.

She says her department made personnel changes and will follow any state recommendations.

“We’ll do what we can to correct any of the errors or deficiencies that we’ve had,” Dr. Haushalter said.

State investigators allege several issues like bad record keeping and no formal process for managing vaccine doses about to expire.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris acknowledged the problem Wednesday afternoon but claims some of the state’s accusations are false.

“A lot of what they said felt like… theater,” Mayor Harris said.

He also placed some of the blame on Governor Lee. 

“I think he’s not been doing an active job of managing this pandemic,” Mayor Harris said, “I think he’s focused too much on issues that are besides the point.”

The mayor only answered a few questions on the fiasco before walking away from reporters 

Governor Lee says CDC officials are also in Shelby County to keep an eye on things. Health department officials will still administer vaccines but the City of Memphis is now in charge of distribution.

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