Any adult now can sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment in Blount County.
Effective Wednesday, March 24, all people 16 and older became eligible for a vaccine at health departments in the Tennessee Department of Health’s East Tennessee region, TDH Regional Public Information Officer Corie Gouge emailed.
Blount and surrounding counties are moving to vaccinate people 16 and older ahead of schedule. On Monday, March 22, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey announced all Tennessee adults would be eligible no later than April 5.
Piercey said opening appointments to all adults would be left up to individual counties depending on their vaccine supplies.
County vaccine allocation is determined by demand. The Knox County area has had high vaccine participation, Piercey said.
“It’s really different all over the state, and it’s a challenge to try and find the right balance of supply and demand,” she said during a media briefing Monday, March 22. “That’s why we feel it’s really important for counties to move at their own pace.”
Piercey estimated Monday that a “substantive amount” of counties would open their vaccines to everyone within the next 48 hours.
And Blount did — potentially adding thousands to its growing March vaccination count.
As of March 23, more than 12.5% of Blount County had been vaccinated against COVID, and 8.6% had received their first doses, TDH data showed.
Blount Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harold Naramore said the goal of fully vaccinated people is 75%. “That really is the magic number,” he said.
Currently, 11.5% of Tennessee is fully vaccinated, according to TDH data as of March 23. Just fewer than 20% of Tennesseans have received at least one dose.
Opening vaccines to more people could push Tennessee to that 75% threshold, and if the state gets to that point, Naramore said life could be somewhat back to normal by mid-summer.
“I’m more optimistic today than I have been at any point that I’ve talked with you all,” he told hospital board members Tuesday, March 23. “I think we have a real chance in the next two or three months to substantially kill this pandemic.”
Even so, Naramore encourages the typical COVID precautions: wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing. If people have been vaccinated they can start getting back to normal “in small doses,” he said.
Vaccinefinder.org lists 12 Blount County locations providing doses — Blount Senior Care Partners, the Blount County Health Department, Blount Senior Care Partners, City Drug, Lowes Drugs, Cherokee Health Systems, American Family Care and all Blount Discount Pharmacy, Kroger and Walmart stores. The site links to sign-up pages for appointments at each of the locations.
Blount Memorial Hospital also is administering shots but had no available appointments as of 1 p.m. March 24.