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Shelby County making plans for 5-11 year old vaccinations ahead of approval

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:22 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There are about 92,000 children aged 5 to 11-year-olds who could soon become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Shelby County.

Possible approval for that age group wouldn’t come until at least next month, but the Biden Administration is already planning distribution of these vaccine doses. A plan making the Shelby County Health Department confident administration can begin in that age group here as soon as approval is given.

“As you can imagine that’s going to be a game changer for not only the country but especially for Shelby County,” Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said.

Dr. Taylor said when vaccines are able to be administered to 5 to 11 year-olds it will help booster the county’s vaccinations numbers. Right now the rate is moving slowly.

“Currently, 53.2% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine,” Dr. Taylor said. “That is a slight increase from 52.9% reported last week.”

Taylor said she and the state health department are already planning what possible allocation and administration will look like.

“We know that Tennessee will get an allotment like every state in the country,” Dr. Taylor said. “We know we’ll be able to pre-order those vaccines very soon.”

The Biden Administration said it’s important children get the vaccine in a trusted environment, like their doctors office. Already, more than 25,000 pediatricians across the country are on board to administer the vaccine according to the White House.

Taylor said she’s looking at everything from schools to public pods to increase access to the vaccine to families.

“Everybody in this community has been awaiting this development,” Dr. Taylor said. “So, by the time we get to early November we will know who can give vaccinations. We’ll know what kind of volume they can handle.”

Things are likely to look a little different than adult vaccine administration.

“If we decide to add additional vaccinations for kids at our existing sites we know more than likely we need to have a separate tent, we need to be able to have a separate lane, and possibly take the kids out of the car and hold them a little more effectively than we would an adult,” Dr. Taylor said.

Pediatric cases are going down in Shelby County. As of Thursday, there were 326 active cases. Two weeks before there were more than 800.

A downward trend seems to be the way of most pandemic indicators in Shelby County.

Between Wednesday and Thursday, 102 new COVID-19 cases were reported. For multiple days before that less than 100 were reported every day.

Even though the trends are heading in the right direction, Dr. Taylor says the countywide indoor and school mask mandates will stay.

“If we can get those 5 to 11-year-olds approved for vaccinations and vaccinated, then we can talk a little bit more about easing restrictions,” Dr. Taylor said.

A quarter of the population of Shelby County is still vulnerable to catching COVID-19 according to the Shelby County Health Department. A majority of those vulnerable are children. At a Joint COVID-19 Task Force briefing on Thursday, Dr. Taylor said 13% of adults are still vulnerable by not having the infection or getting vaccinated yet.

“We’re really urging people to be patient with us,” Dr. Taylor said. “We want to protect everyone in the county. We know people are getting tired of this 19 month marathon, but we can keep these mitigation efforts in place for a while longer, especially with the holidays approaching.”

The only pandemic indicator that went up week over week is the test positivity rate, which is now at 6.8 percent. It was 5.8 percent last week.

Dr. Taylor said in this case it doesn’t mean more people are testing positive, it means they’re seeing fewer people get tested.

For more COVID-19 resources in Shelby County, including vaccination locations, click here.

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