Tennessee teacher vaccinations for COVID-19 open statewide next week

A woman in a mask gets the COVID-19 vaccine in her arm in front of a back drop with the Baptist hospital logo
A healthcare technician receives her COVID-19 vaccine at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis on Dec. 17, 2020. Tennessee is opening up vaccinations to teachers statewide beginning Feb. 22. (Ariel Cobbert / The Commercial Appeal)

Tennessee K-12 teachers statewide can schedule appointments beginning Monday to get their vaccinations against the coronavirus.

The state health department announced Tuesday that Tennessee is moving into its next phase of vaccinations. Teachers and child care staff are part of that group, as well as Tennesseans ages 65 and older.

The announcement is a boost to school districts working to fully staff and reopen their campuses, even as new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says schools don’t need to wait for staff to be vaccinated to reopen.

Since a limited supply of vaccines began arriving in December, Tennessee has prioritized vaccinations for health care workers and elderly people first.

“We are still constrained by supply,” Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey told reporters.

But beginning next week, Piercey expects the state will receive 10% more doses than its current supply. Those shipments will get Tennessee to 110,000 weekly doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, with the new single-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson expected to enter the rotation by early March.

“While we remain focused on our seniors, who are the highest-risk population, we’re able to expand vaccine eligibility to these additional groups as our supply continues to grow each week,” Piercey said, noting that more than 1 million doses have been distributed so far across the state.

About 100,000 people are in the group that includes teachers and child care workers. Some Tennessee educators already have gotten their shots, though, if they live in or travel to rural counties where supply is available.

Demand has been higher in metropolitan areas like Memphis and Nashville, where schools also have been slower to get students into classrooms for in-person learning. 

The state launched a new online scheduling tool Monday for Tennesseans to book their appointments directly instead of registering online and waiting to hear back from local health departments and providers. Those who already have registered for their shots should not re-enter their information in the new system, officials said.

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