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Large hospitals will be first to get Pfizer vaccine in Tennessee

Rural hospitals will get the Moderna vaccine when it arrives.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — COVID-19 vaccine could soon be on its way the Tennessee but the numbers show it won't be near enough to vaccinate the healthcare workers and long-term care residents who are supposed to get it first.  

Tennessee is set to receive just over 150,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines once they are approved, but there are 450,000 in highest priority group of people who are supposed to receive it. 

The initial shipment of the vaccine could arrive in Tennessee as early as this weekend.  

"We have working really closely with the department of health to be prepared to accept that vaccine and to very quickly give it to the arms of the employees," said Dr. Wendy Long, President of the Tennessee Hospital Association. 

Dr. Long said when it comes to first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, it will be shipped to the largest 26 or so hospitals across the state. Large hospitals are receiving the shipments for employees because the Pfizer vaccine is a more complicated to administer, because of its cold temperature requirements. Each tray of the Pfizer vaccine has almost 1,000 doses.

"The state is sending it to those hospitals that are going to be able to use a full tray or more," said Dr. Long.

After that, Tennessee is expected to get about 100,000 Moderna vaccines. That's when rural hospital workers will be vaccinated. The Moderna vaccine is easier to transport and handle.

"The Moderna vaccine will be shipped out to all 95 counties, and at that point some of the smaller hospitals will receive that vaccine for their staff."

But with 95 counties and just 100,000 Moderna vaccines, the doses will be spread thin. 

The way it is supposed to work, states will direct the federal government where to ship the doses. 

RELATED: Vanderbilt University doctor lays out vaccine timeline

RELATED: How Tennessee officials have prepared for possible problems with vaccine distribution

In addition to healthcare and front-line workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities are in the highest priority tier for the vaccine. 

That said, this week, the president of the National Healthcare Association and National Center for Assisted Living called on governors to change the plan to vaccinate long-term care residents first. 

"Here is a grim reality - if you look at everybody in that top tier, there will not be enough vaccine in the first go around to vaccinate everyone in the top tier," said Mark Parkinson, President of the National Healthcare Association.

Parkinson said the reason long-term care residents and staff should get moved to the front of the line - before healthcare workers - is due to the number of COVID fatalities that occur in nursing homes. 

"What we are saying is with the limited supply that is going to be available over the next few weeks, the absolute top of that top tier should be long-term care facilities residents and the folks that take care of them," said Parkinson.