by Kimberlee Kruesi —
NASHVILLE — Tennessee on Monday received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine to be used as an emergency backup supply, according to the Department of Health.
The state is expecting to receive 56,550 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 on Wednesday, which will then be shipped Thursday to 28 sites to serve 74 hospitals. A second shipment of 56,500 doses is expected to be dropped off three weeks later.
However, Monday’s shipment of 975 vaccine will be used as a reserve should any hospital’s vaccine doses be damaged.
“We have been preparing for months to distribute approved vaccines and we believe this will be a safe and effective tool in the fight against COVID-19,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey in a statement.
The rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, ushers in the biggest vaccination effort in U.S. history — one health officials hope the American public will embrace, even as some have voiced initial skepticism or worry. Shots were beginning to be given to health care workers and nursing home residents Monday.
The Pfizer shot requires two rounds, which means the people getting the vaccines now will then get a second shot in about three weeks.
The vaccine shipments come as Nashville reported its record number of new virus cases in a single day with 1,311 new cases Monday.
City health officials say more than 50% of those cases were among those tested on Dec. 7, calling it in a statement that the spike was a “clear indication of the post-Thanksgiving surge that is being seen across the U.S.”
Statewide, health officials reported more than 10,300 new cases Monday and 79 deaths. To date, more than 5,540 Tennesseans have died from the virus. That death count is the 16th highest in the country overall, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins.
Currently, there are 2,906 Tennesseans hospitalized with COVID-19 related symptoms. Of those hospitalized, 359 are on ventilators.
Meanwhile, Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center officials said the hospital has been chosen as one of 37 VA locations to receive early doses of the vaccine for its ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and store vaccines at extremely cold temperatures.
Shelby County, which includes Memphis, recorded 998 additional cases of the virus Monday, one of the highest one-day increases since the pandemic began, health department officials said. Hospitals are reporting acute and intensive care bed shortages and staffing shortfalls.
(Associated Press writer Adrian Sainz contributed to this report from Memphis, Tennessee.)