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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Hamilton County residents wait in line on Amnicola Parkway to get the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at the Tennessee Riverpark on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Thursday was the first day Hamilton County allowed for residents 75 and older to get vaccinated, which resulted in long wait times.

This story was updated at 4:37 p.m. on Mon., Jan. 4, with more information.

The Hamilton County Health Department has begun its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. With many community questions about who is eligible and when vaccines are available, the Times Free Press offers this guide with the best available information on the vaccine.

For answers to more COVID-19 questions, visit the Times Free Press FAQ page or call the county health department's hotline at 423-209-8383.

Can I receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Hamilton County right now?

Hamilton County is now offering the COVID-19 vaccine for all people aged 75 and older, as well as people in phases 1a1 and 1a2, according to the state's vaccination plan.

The following list contains all the currently eligible groups in Hamilton County as of Dec. 31, according to the county health department:

* All health care workers with direct exposure to patients or potentially infectious materials (including hospital staff, outpatient providers, pharmacy staff, patient transport, therapists, janitors, dental providers, behavioral health providers, laboratory staff working with COVID-19 specimens, funeral/mortuary workers)

* Home health care staff

* COVID-19 mass testing site staff

* Student health providers

* Staff and residents of long-term-care facilities

* First responders

* Individuals over age 18 who cannot live independently due to health conditions or disability

* Anyone 75 years or older (must be Hamilton County resident)

 

Where do I need to go to get a vaccine? When is it open?

Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 5, the Hamilton County Health Department will use an alphabetical system for the current group of people eligible for vaccinations. Within the group that can receive the vaccine now — including health care staff, first responders, residents of long-term-care facilities and any resident aged 75 or older — people with last names starting with the letters A through K can receive the vaccine from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday at the distribution site, 4501 Amnicola Highway.

On Wednesday, people eligible for the vaccine with last names starting with the letters L through Z can receive the vaccine between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Read more

People must bring proof of eligibility, such as a work ID and/or documentation of residency.

 

Do I need to make an appointment to get the vaccine?

No appointment is necessary for the Hamilton County Health Department vaccination site.

 

Who is next in line for the vaccine? When can I expect to be vaccinated?

Vaccines are expected to be available for the next group of people, including school and child care staff and anyone aged 65 or older, in February or March, according to the Tennessee Department of Health's vaccination plan. With each new phase, individuals in a lower 10-year age bracket will become eligible for vaccination regardless of their job or if they have underlying health conditions.

The next phase, people aged 16 or older with high-risk, underlying issues are expected to receive the vaccine in March or in the second quarter of the year. People aged 55 or older, regardless of their job or health condition, are expected to receive the vaccine then, too.

People considered critical infrastructure — such as workers in social services, commercial agriculture, food production, public transit and correctional facilities — are expected to get the vaccine around the midway point of 2021. People living in congregate living centers, grocery workers and correctional inmates will follow in the later summer or fall, along with the various age brackets, according to the state's plan.

On Wednesday, Dr. Lisa Piercey, Tennessee health commissioner, cautioned people from being too hung up on specific dates in the timeline. The vaccination plan is a general estimate, she said.

"I get texts and calls and emails pretty much every hour asking, 'OK, I'm in phase fill-in-the-blank. When do you think I'll be ready for mine?'" Piercey said. "I want to caveat this by saying it's really hard to predict that. I've already described the difficulties and the variables that are out of our control, and you know we're told we'll get them on one day, and then there's a big snowstorm in Michigan — like happened a few days ago — and so it was delayed. And there's other operational delays that are completely out of our control, so it's difficult to put an exact timeline on things."

I got the first shot of the vaccine. When do I need to return for the second shot?

After being vaccinated, you will receive a "COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card" in English and Spanish. This will include the date of your second shot. If you received the Moderna vaccine, your second dose is taken 28 days after your first. If you received the Pfizer vaccine, the wait time is 21 days.

 

I live and work in Tennessee but outside of Hamilton County. Am I eligible for the vaccine? And, if so, where do I go?

Counties may progress through allocation phases at different times based on their vaccine supply and demand. Tennessee residents can check which phase their county is in by visiting the state's website. The state department of health is also building an online vaccine finder tool for people to check where they can go to get the shot. The vaccine is now available only at hospitals and through local health departments.

Contact your local health department for the most up-to-date information on vaccine availability and locations.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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