Vaccinations in Shelby County this week went quite smoothly for many. But for others, long lines and a major vaccine site running out of doses designated for the day’s distribution made for a nightmarish experience.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter

Speaking at the Pipkin Building at the Fairgrounds in Midtown on Wednesday, Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said a combination of things fueled confusion.

Despite an emphasis on the importance of making an appointment for the vaccine become going to the Pipkin vaccination site, Haushalter said many people continued to get in line without an appointment. That, she said, contributed to the hours-long wait and many having to leave without the vaccine.

“In addition to some who did not have an appointment, we increased the number of appointments on Tuesday because things had moved so smoothly all the other days,” said Haushalter. 

“The increase of appointments added an additional burden to the system, and staffing capacity could not meet the increased demand.”

To help alleviate the crush of long waits at drive-thru vaxing sites, the health department introduced the “VaxQueue” this week. At vaxqueue.shelbycountytn.gov, there is this explanation of the VaxQueue system:

“The Shelby County Health Department receives limited quantities of COVID-19 vaccines from the State of Tennessee on a periodic basis. As such, there is no surplus of vaccine supply at this time. In the coming weeks and as larger vaccine quantities become available, we will offer surplus supply to individuals who join the Shelby County VaxQueue. Additionally, as we move through the vaccine phases (as determined by the State Health Department), we will notify those individuals in the VaxQueue who may qualify to register for an appointment.”

A registration form is attached.

County residents who sign up through VaxQueue will be contacted by the health department to make an appointment to receive any surplus vaccine. Health officials hope this will help alleviate some of the long lines at vaxing sites.

Wednesday’s vaxing operation at the Pipkin Building improved as staffing was increased. However, Haushalter said health department staff was looking into why the lines were still extremely long on Wednesday.

Joan Carr, the health department’s public information officer, said that although vaccine doses are somewhat limited in Shelby County and across the nation, those who are waiting to receive their second dose should not worry.

“The Health Department has enough vaccine,” said Carr. “Everyone who has received a first dose will get a second dose.”

In sharp contrast to the Pipkin drive-thru site, the Appling Road vaccination site hummed right along on Wednesday, administering the second Moderna vaccine to the 1,400 individuals who signed up. According to the health department, the second doses had been set aside specifically for seniors and first responders who received their first shots between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3.

On Thursday, the total of reported COVID-19 cases in Shelby County was 81,657, with 1,241 deaths recorded. 

Businesses closed for violations

As of Thursday (Jan. 28), the following locations were closed by the Health Department for 14 days each due to multiple documented violations of requirements and provisions of Health Directive 17 based on enforcement inspections conducted Saturday, January 23.

The locations may petition to reopen after submitting plans for coming into compliance with the Health Directive, and each establishment was given instructions on how to submit their plans.

The closed businesses are: In Love Memphis, The Statuz Club, The Blue Night Club, Comma’s Lounge and The Menu Restaurant and Lounge.

(For more information, visit https://www.shelbytnhealth.com/.)