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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis and Shelby County will start taking vaccine appointments for everyone over the age of 16 on Friday to speed up the vaccination rate.

As of Friday morning, only 11 percent of adults in Shelby County has been fully vaccinated, which is far from the 70 percent needed to reach herd immunity.

So, when might health officials lift the mask mandate and ease restrictions?

Shelby County issued their mask mandate nearly nine months ago, and said they have no plans to lift it anytime soon. They explained that the number of new cases has stopped falling and not nearly enough people have been vaccinated yet. Furthermore, variants of the virus are spreading.

Officials: 44k vaccine doses administered in the last seven days with more doses on the way

“We do see an increasing proportion of cases in the community that are being caused by the U.K. strain B117. It is highly transmissible, three times more easily caught than the other strain is. It’s also 30 percent more lethal,” said Shelby County Health Department Chief of Epidemiology David Sweat. “Vaccine doses protect against it so even though we’re on a trajectory at the moment for the variants to become more than 50 percent of the cases in the community being caused by the U.K. strain – we’re on that projectory predicted to hit that date around April 15 – the vaccine protects against that strain. So, we’re definitely in a race between the virus and the vaccine, and the most useful thing that everyone in the community can do right now is to keep coming out, filling out those shots appointments and getting vaccinated.”

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are now available at about 90 locations throughout Memphis. The city is operating five mass vaccination sites and has partnered with community centers and churches.

In addition, many private providers are offering the vaccine, including Walmart, Kroger and Walgreens.

To schedule an appointment, click here or call (901) 222-SHOT.