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Ensuring equitable vaccine access to all Memphians is a top priority

Ensuring equity and inclusion in all aspects of City government is a top priority. The vaccine process is no different. The City of Memphis is actively working to make sure everyone has equal access and the process is easy for everyone to use and understand.

The City of Memphis assumed responsibility for the vaccination process in Shelby County on February 23rd.  Since then, we have vaccinated more than 70,000 people through fixed site and pop-up pods, decreased wait times to under 20 minutes, and started on the intentional path of improving the percentage of vaccinated African Americans (AA) and people of color from approximately 20 percent of the total to approximately 30 percent of the total, and we are working every day to reduce barriers to access. This small increase is a step in the right direction but there is much more to do.

The five fixed, mass vaccination sites were chosen for very specific reasons. From a logistical standpoint, we looked for locations where large numbers of people can be processed efficiently.   Equally important, we had to ensure access was broadly available throughout Shelby County. The map below shows the location of each site, as well as half-mile, one-mile, three-mile and five-mile radius around each site. 

To align with our equity goals, we calculated the demographics of people living within half-mile, one  mile, three miles and five miles of each site.  For the five sites across Shelby County, we find that the aggregate population living within three and five miles of the sites mirrors precisely the demographics of Shelby County, with 53 percent AA, 40 percent White, and 7 percent Latinx/Other races.  When we calculate just for the sites located inside Memphis, we find that the populations living within half-mile and one-mile of the four Memphis sites, mirrors exactly the demographics of Memphis, with 63.5 percent AA, 32.5 percent White and 4 percent Latinx/Other living within those areas.  

One very important fact to remember—our five sites are not the only points of delivery.

More than 100 agencies and organizations are now qualified to receive and administer vaccinations in Shelby County, and that number is growing each week.  There are 12 Walmart and 13 Walgreens’ pharmacies in Shelby County that are now administering vaccinations. Hospitals and community clinics also administer vaccinations.  For example, Christ Community Health Services is administering vaccinations at South Third Street, Frayser, Raleigh, Hickory Hill, and Broad Avenue. Tri-State Community Health is doing the same at its locations in Parkway Village, Memphis Health Center at its Crump Ave location, and others are coming online each day. 

Additionally, to ensure that seniors who use the Shelby County Food Stabilization program receive access to the vaccine, approximately 400 vaccinations are delivered each week to the Shelby County Health Department’s Commodities site in South Memphis. 

Moving forward, the City of Memphis will continue to support up to three “pop-up” sites each week in addition to our already established locations. Dozens of organizations and agencies have applied to host a pop-up community POD.  These sites are chosen by analyzing vaccination rate data that shows us where vaccination rates are below average.  To-date, we have had successful pop-up PODs at Cane Creek Church and Anointed Temple of Praise where nearly 1,000 vaccinations were administered.   This week, we know that zip codes 38127, 38141, 38118 and 38115 have some of the lowest vaccination rates, and so we will deliver pop ups to serve those areas:  on the 12th and 13th of March, a POD will be held at the Fire Training Academy in 38127 to serve residents of that area, and on Saturday, March 13th, a POD will be held at the Greater Community Temple located at 5151 Winchester to serve residents of 38118, 38141 and 38115.

Early in the pandemic, the COVID-19 Joint Task Force organized a program using MATA services to provide transportation to testing sites to residents in need. We are currently in the process of shifting that same service to our vaccination sites. In the interim, Pipkin, Whitehaven, and Raleigh are all on public transit routes and walk-up service is available.

As not all residents have access to the internet, the 222- SHOT hotline is available to call and set up an appointment.  Next week, we anticipate transitioning to the Tennessee Department of Health’s appointment system that includes both online and telephonic appointment support.  With more than 700 agents working 24-hours a day, this new system will significantly improve access and reduce call waiting times.

The City also is aware that we have many homebound citizens throughout our community. We are working with our Healthcare Navigator program to send EMT’s out to administer vaccines as needed.

Recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield awarded the City of Memphis a very generous grant that will help enable us to reach our black and brown residents more effectively.  Thanks to this funding, a marketing campaign will be starting soon focused on African American and Hispanic communities that will help increase awareness and demonstrate the importance of getting vaccinated. 

As we continue to move through this process, the City of Memphis is not only committed to providing an efficient vaccination service, but also an equitable process that serves all of Shelby County.