Nearly 3.5% of Blount Countians are partially vaccinated against COVID-19, Tennessee Department of Health data shows. The remaining county residents, however, are grappling with the unknowns surrounding when and where they’ll receive their shots.

Blount County is vaccinating people in Phase 1a2 of TDH’s COVID-19 vaccination plan and members of the general public older than 75, the state health department’s website states. Phase 1a2 includes health care workers with patient exposure.

TDH spokeswoman Corie Gouge told The Daily Times that the Blount County Health Department received another shipment of COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday, Jan. 5.

People in Phase 1a2 or older than 75 should call 865-549-5343 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to make a vaccination appointment.

“We are experiencing a high volume so we do ask that if someone doesn’t get an answer to please give us a few minutes and call back,” Gouge said.

Blount Memorial Hospital, the county’s other vaccine provider, currently is out of the shots; however, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harold Naramore said he is hopeful the hospital will receive more soon.

Should the hospital receive more doses, they will be administered to members of Blount Memorial Physicians Group aged 75 and older, BMH Director of Marketing Jennie Bounds said, adding that those who qualify for one of these vaccines will be notified by their physician’s office and not by a future newspaper ad.

“We have the resources in place to continue administering vaccine as long as the vaccine is available from the state,” Naramore said. “And, from the response we’re seeing and the interest we’ve had so far, we’re going to work as hard as we can to keep vaccines coming to Blount County.”

As of Jan. 4, roughly 4,538 Blount Countians have received a vaccination since the doses arrived in the county Thursday, Dec. 17, TDH data showed.

The first vaccines the county received were shipped to Blount Memorial Hospital and were administered to members of Phase 1a1 of TDH’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. This phase includes people with direct exposure to the virus.

The hospital was able to move through all 1a1 employees by Dec. 29 and began vaccinating people in Phase 1a2. Days later, BMH had vaccinated all employees and volunteers who wanted and presented for the vaccine, leaving more than 700 vaccines available for the general public.

The hospital announced the vaccine availability on their social media accounts and through an advertisement in The Daily Times. Bounds said the hospital’s phone lines were flooded with people requesting vaccination appointments after the announcement. By 10:30 a.m. Dec. 30, all slots were filled.

From Dec. 30-31, some 776 people aged 75 and older or belonging to Blount Memorial Physicians Group received the shots in the hospital’s auditorium.

Blount Memorial also was able to secure enough vaccines to inoculate 101 employees and residents of MorningView Village, BMH’s senior living facility, on Jan. 5.

“We have been awaiting the arrival of this vaccine for months, and now that it’s available, we are appreciative of the state’s willingness to allow us to help distribute the vaccine to some of the most-vulnerable populations outlined in its phased plan,” Naramore said. “With us reaching out to and assisting the state in these vaccination efforts, it means that our residents at MorningView Village didn’t have to wait any longer for vaccines — they could begin building immunity to this virus.”

Days after Blount Memorial received its initial shipment, the Blount County Health Department welcomed a shipment of Moderna vaccines, which were to be administered to other people falling in Phase 1a1 — first responders, home health care providers, student health care providers in K-12 and school staff members, and staff and residents at group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Gouge would not disclose how many vaccines were administered with this shipment.

“We are pleased with the overwhelming interest Tennesseans are showing in receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, and our county health departments are working as quickly as possible to provide vaccinations as we receive additional shipments of vaccines,” she emailed. “COVID-19 vaccine supplies remain limited at this time, and availability of vaccines varies by county.”

The last population included in Phase 1a1 is staff and residents at long-term care facilities, which have partnered with CVS Pharmacy for administration of the Moderna vaccine.

Vaccination clinics are expected to be activated in Tennessee long-term care facilities on Jan. 13, CVS data showed.

Follow @_shelbyharris on Twitter for more from county government reporter Shelby Harris.

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