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Two-thirds of Tennessee residents over 70 still need COVID-19 vaccinations

The Tennessee Health Department is trying to reach seniors for their vaccinations.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The State of Tennessee is urging seniors to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Right now, 2 out of 3 people over the age of 70 have not been vaccinated.

There is now an effort underway to get shots in the arms of the state's most vulnerable residents.

"I'm actually scheduled to get it in the morning at the fairgrounds. My wife went this morning," said Pastor Ricky Duggar.

Dugger is the pastor of Norris Avenue Baptist Church. Dugger said many of his church members, especially seniors, are hesitant about getting the vaccine.

"At the end of the day, I think in due time, many of them will take it ," said Dugger.

According to the state of Tennessee, only 1 in 3 people over 70 have been vaccinated.

State leaders said getting some seniors vaccinated has been a challenge. Forty percent (40%) of Tennessee seniors live alone and may not have computers. If they do, they may have trouble making appointments online or may not have a ride to get there.

"It's not quite as simple as just telling this population 'Hey, go out and get a vaccination'," said Dr. Lisa Piercey, TN Department of Health Commissioner.

In Shelby County, another challenge is the racial disparity. White residents are being vaccinated at a higher rate than minorities.

"We need to make sure if you don't have a computer and you don't have a car, you can access the vaccine if you would like to get it. And that's been a challenge," said Dr. Scott Strome with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

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Strome hopes adding an additional vaccination site in Frayser will make the vaccine easier to reach for those in that community, and said more outreach in minority communities needs to be done to educate not just seniors, but people of all ages on the benefits of the COVID-9 vaccine.

"We continue to work hard, to do better," said Strome.

According to state health leaders, they are now working with counties to reach seniors still needing vaccines. Identifying housing complexes, senior centers, and other locations seniors may be in hopes of getting them to sign up for a vaccine. And given the fact Tennessee is known as the volunteer state, Piercey wants everyone to help.

"Reach out to your family, to your next-door neighbor, to those you go to church with - anyone you know who is 70 plus. Say 'hey have you been vaccinated yet?' and if the answer is no, please offer to help them with that," said Piercey. 

Early Treatment for COVID-19 An effective early treatment is available for persons who test positive and have the following risk factors: Anyone over age 12 with obesity, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or whose immunity is compromised by disease or prescription treatments.