Coronavirus Update

Tuesday afternoon, Pfizer Inc. announced that Tennessee had been selected as one of four states to participate in a pilot program for the delivery of their new COVID-19 vaccine. The program is designed to help states distribute the vaccine and help deal with challenges related to the ultra-cold storage requirements for the vaccine.

Tennessee will be joining the pilot program along with New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas. Pfizer will adjust their distribution efforts to the rest of the country based on how the distribution goes in these states.

“We have a robust plan in place for distribution of this vaccine, and we’re honored to be chosen to help establish a model for other states in providing COVID-19 vaccine to their residents once it’s approved,” Lisa Piercey, Tennessee Health Commissioner, said on TN.gov.

Participating in the pilot program will not get Tennessee a vaccine sooner than other states, but it will help Pfizer determine what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.

News of Pfizer’s vaccine comes amid the highest days of new COVID-19 numbers the country has seen, and Tennessee is no exception. The state reported a record number of 7,499 new cases on Monday, beating the previous daily record by nearly 2,000.

As of Friday afternoon, Knox county has seen 17,392 cases since March, with 2,018 active cases and 146 deaths. The county’s death toll has been higher in November than it was in October. Knox county also currently has 86 hospitalizations related to COVID-19. Cases in the county are highest in those aged 10-30, with more than 40% of confirmed cases coming from this age range.

The University of Tennessee has reported 2,051 cases, with 1,965 recoveries and 86 active cases as of Thursday. UTK saw a large spike in cases in September after bringing students back to campus, but new cases have stayed relatively low since October. University officials have expressed that this may be due to a lack of testing, however.

Additionally, Knox county announced earlier this week that they had entered into an agreement with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on a potential COVID-19 vaccine plan.

In the plan, the county agreed to multiple requirements, including that Knox county must:

  • “Administer COVID-19 vaccine and adjuvant, organization must record in the vaccine recipient’s record and report required information to the relevant state, local or territorial public health authority,”
  • “Not sell or seek reimbursement for COVID-19 vaccine and any adjuvant, syringes, needles or other constituent products and ancillary supplies that the federal government provides without cost to organization,”
  • “Administer COVID-19 vaccine regardless of the vaccine recipient’s ability to pay COVID-19 vaccine administration fees.”

Knox county and the CDC hope to have the vaccine in distribution for the general public in 2021.

In the commission meeting in which the county and CDC entered into the agreement, Martha Buchanan, Director of the Knox County Health Department, commented on her thoughts on the public’s potential reception of the vaccine.

“We’ll have to see who is willing to take (the vaccine)… We aren’t really sure what it will look like or who will take it,” Buchanan said.

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