Teachers move up in Tennessee vaccination rollout plan

In this Monday Dec. 21, 2020 photo, Melissa Metcalf with the Blount County Health Department gives the first Moderna COVID-19 vaccination to first responder Mike Serratt of the Blount County Sheriff's Office in Maryville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE — Tennessee has updated its scheduled rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, including moving teachers into a higher priority category.

Dr. Lisa Piercey, Tennessee’s health commissioner, said in releasing the update Wednesday that it’s important for residents and workers to pay attention to the phases because of limited supplies and delays in receiving the vaccine.

Piercey said counties could end up being at different phases of the rollout at the same time. She said the plan’s focus is on reducing the risk of exposure to the virus.

The current rollout is focused on health care workers, including in-patient providers, first responders, and staff members and residents of long-term care facilities. The vaccine is being offered through employers, health departments or a hospital.

The state also has a concurrent plan to vaccinate residents based on age, starting with people 75 and older. The age-based vaccinations will be rolled out through 10-year age brackets. Piercey said people age 75 and older should call their local health departments to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine.

Groups that will be offered the vaccine after the initial phase include teachers and staff members of child care centers and K-12 schools, other first responders not covered by the initial rollout and people 16 or older who have high-risk health conditions.

Piercey said teachers have been “bumped up” in priority right behind health care workers because “we know how critically important schools are to the functioning of our society and our economy, not only keeping kids in school so that they can learn and be educated, but also keeping parents at work. If the kids are in school, then the parents can go to work.”

Industries in critical infrastructure categories are in subsequent phases.

Health officials said the state has received 170,000 doses of the vaccine and 90,000 have been administered. That doesn’t include tens of thousands of doses for distribution in long-term care facilities.

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