As states across the country hurry to vaccinate their frontline workers against COVID-19, Tennessee is the only state prioritizing the development of its independent vaccine stockpile.
Tennessee’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan is to withhold a portion of the “coveted” vaccines “in case of spoilage of vaccine shipped to facilities,” according to Associated Press. (RELATED: Operation Warp Speed Official Says 20 Million Moderna Vaccines Will Be Distributed By End Of December)
The state did not distribute its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that came Monday; thus, health care workers had to await the second shipment that arrived Wednesday, Associated Press reported.
Some medical professionals questioned Tennessee’s decision.
“I don’t know all of the reasons that went in to the decision for holding that 975 back, but if any of it was to create a rainy-day stockpile, let me just tell you, there is a hurricane blowing,” Dr. Jason Martin, a critical care physician, said, speaking of the 975 withheld doses from the state’s initial shipment, according to WKRN. “We need the vaccine to be administered and distributed as quickly as possible because time is essentially lives for our frontline providers,” he added.
I’d take the vaccine in my eyeball at this point. And I’m currently at work, no beds at our hospital. When trying to transfer, was just offered a bed in the neighboring state. It’s pouring for sure. @GovBillLee – please help us help our state. #MaskUp @ProtectMycare https://t.co/zMjQAOpyIQ— James Parnell (@ParnellJames) December 15, 2020
Those 975 vaccines form a fraction of the quantity Tennessee will distribute to the public. However, Tennessee’s plan calls for stockpiling 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, 5% of the state’s first shipment from the manufacturer, expected to come next week, Associated Press reported.
Despite a federal stockpile’s existence, Tennessee officials insist upon keeping their own, Associated Press reported.
“If a hospital receives a case of the vaccine and it’s spoiled or broken, we can immediately deploy that (emergency reserve) to them,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said, according to Associated Press.
Critics, however, point to the state’s “record case numbers, climbing death rates and overwhelmed hospitals” to dissuade the state from prioritizing stockpiling, Associated Press reported.