Shelby County commissioners frustrated with health director, mayor after vaccine debacle


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County commissioners sounded off in a special called meeting Friday night after county health officials recently wasted more 2,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccine instead of getting them into peoples’ arms. 

“This is the final insult and miscarriage of justice,” Commissioner Mick Wright said.

Fallout from the embarrassment has now reached the top, with Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter resigning. 

“There’s a wind down period that will take place,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.

That means she’s still employed until her resignation takes effect March 15, but Haushalter didn’t come to the special called meeting.

“Most of the questions I had were directly for Dr. Haushalter,” Commissioner Amber Mills said.

Wright called for her immediate termination.

“It’s a dereliction of duty,” he said, “If she’s not present to answer our questions, not present to give accountability to the public.”

Some commissioners turned their frustration to Harris, who blames part of the wasted vaccines on last week’s winter storm as he continues to refute certain findings from state investigators.

“Does the mayor bear any responsibility for what has taken place?” commissioner Edmund Ford asked.

“The waste of the vaccine is gut wrenching,” Harris said, “We’re gonna make sure we get it right.”

But until then, county officials are removed from the process, something the City of Memphis has largely taken over.

Commissioner Van Turner defended Harris and painted the shots taken at him as political theater.

“This was supposed to undercut your leadership and the questions that were asked tonight were to say you’re an ineffective mayor,” he said, “I would say that’s not true. You’ve been a good mayor. This has been a bad incident, but we can come back from this.”

Harris says the county is conducting its own internal investigation into the wasted vaccines. He also says an interim health director will be appointed next week.

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