NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee will soon allow all residents 16 and older to receive the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday.
Tennessee had been distributing the vaccine to health care workers, first responders, senior citizens and people 16 and older who have high-risk health conditions — including cancer, hypertension, obesity and pregnancy — as well as caregivers and household residents of medically fragile children.
However, starting Monday, Lee said that two new groups would be eligible, including Tennesseans 55 and older and those who work in critical infrastructure industries — ranging from gro
By April 5, anyone 16 and up will be able to receive the lifesaving shot.
“The federal government has asked us to make sure every adult can receive access by May 1, and Tennessee will beat that deadline,” Lee, a Republican, said in a video announcement, noting that a few counties were planning on starting earlier but didn’t disclose which ones.
Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey later told reporters that the state was able to expand eligibility ahead of schedule largely because people in rural areas have been hesitant to receive the immunization.
Piercey noted that 20% of vaccine appointments in western Tennessee are currently full, while half a million appointments remain open statewide.
“If you’re willing or able to drive to another county, there’s no restriction,” Piercey said, adding that the state will working to find ways to convince hesitant rural residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
State data showed that about 21% of the total population was at least partially vaccinated against the disease that has killed more than 11,700 people in Tennessee.
Tennesseans should check with their counties to learn more about eligibility and registration. Furthermore, residents in the state’s metropolitan areas may have different instructions.
To date, Tennessee has seen 11,709 COVID-19 related deaths, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University. That death count is the 15th highest in the country overall and the 20th highest per capita at 173 deaths per 100,000 people.