NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - On the same day that Gov. Bill Lee announced that COVID-19 was a “managed public health issue,” the state he leads has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.
According to statistics by the CDC, Tennessee is ranked as having the sixth worst vaccination rate in adults, trailing behind other southern states including South Carolina and Arkansas.
When asked by News4 Investigates why the state has such a low ranking, the commissioner of the Department of Health said the answer is clear.
“The reason our vaccination rate is lower is because people aren’t demanding it,” Dr. Lisa Piercey said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced the end of statewide public health orders and signed an executive order to address economic and regulatory functions.
Piercey cited a study by the state Department of Health which surveyed Tennesseans wary of taking the vaccine.
“A fair number of people were more afraid of dying from the vaccine than they were dying from COVID itself. It’s easy to see the numbers don’t bare that whatsoever,” Piercey said. “We have to get the message out there that not only are these vaccines safe, they are a lot safer than COVID itself.”
Piercey said the health department will soon launch a new PR campaign to try and convince Tennesseans to get vaccinated.
“People don’t trust the government and that’s OK. We know that. We want them to get their own information from their own doctor,” Piercey said.
Dr. James Hildreth, a member of the Metro Coronavirus Task Force, told News4 Investigates that with vaccination rates so low, this is not the time to start lifting mask mandates.
“We’re not out of a crisis situation quite yet,” Hildreth said.
The Metro Nashville Health Department announced Tuesday that all COVID-19 restrictions except for the mask mandate will be dropped effective May 14.
Hildreth said most health experts believe herd immunity is around 80%, which shows just how far Tennessee has to go to reach that.
“We’re still far away as a state from getting to the level of vaccinations that we need to,” Hildreth said.
Hildreth did say it is fine for people to not wear masks outside and to gather inside with people who have been vaccinated.
However, he said if you are going inside with a crowd, and you are unsure if they have been vaccinated, it is important to still wear a mask.
He said that is why it is vital that Tennesseans continue to be vaccinated.