NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Members of the AARP heard directly from the commissioner of the Department of Health this week that the oldest Tennesseans at the highest risk from COVID-19 may have to wait more than seven weeks to get the vaccine.
Dr. Lisa Piercey gave the stark numbers to members who could call in for the AARP townhall meeting with herself and Gov. Bill Lee.
“When the demand is so far over the supply, there are going to be some people who – we can’t get to everyone immediately,” Piercey said.
Piercey estimated that 450,000 Tennesseans are 75 or older and there is, on average, only 60,000 vials of the vaccine to be distributed to the community.
It means, on average, it will be more than seven weeks until that entire age population is vaccinated, and that only applies to state-run health departments, not including Davidson and Shelby counties.
“I encourage you to continue calling and please be patient and give us some grace as we’re trying to do the best we can with very limited supply,” Piercey said.
Piercey also heard from callers, such as a man who identified himself as Tom and being between 80 and 85 years old, who criticized the vaccine rollout.
“I’ve been calling to the East Tennessee phone number for the last three weeks to get an appointment, never even got through,” Tom said. “Just getting a little frustrated that here we are in this very accelerated age bracket and wondering when are we going to get an appointment?”
Piercey apologized and said they are simply hampered by supply and demand.
But there is also conflict among older generations about who should get the vaccine first.
Patricia Wilson, a 68-year-old Nashville resident, believes her generation should wait behind those who must go to work.
“They don’t have a choice. We have a choice, and the choice is to stay home,” Wilson said.