This weekend’s round of vaccinations at the Tullahoma Health Department clinic did not go as planned for many people.

“It was an epic failure,” said Deb Clark, who stood in line with her disabled 79-year-old husband in the 40-degree weather Saturday morning along with throngs of senior citizens hoping to get a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as it was supposed to be released to persons 75 and older. “Hundreds of others were put at risk for more than just COVID. I wonder how many will become sick from this very poor organization.”

Clark’s husband was one of the lucky 100 who got the vaccine after he waited for more than three hours Saturday morning outside the Tullahoma Health Department. Mrs. Clark said she thought it would be a drive-through vaccination but was stunned when she saw people standing in line.

“There were hundreds, many on walkers, standing outside in the cold just hoping to get the vaccine,” she said. “I was afraid some would get run over as they were crossing the street as cars whizzed by.”

While many were wearing masks, there was little social distancing as the lines pressed toward the health department. However, those braving the elements had no idea how limited the supply was. Her husband was number 70.

“Thanks to the Tullahoma Police for showing up,” she said.  “When they saw the situation they actually found out how many doses there was available and counted heads.”

She said officers also found seats for the elderly, some of whom were exhausted from standing on the concrete. Most, she noted, were turned away without getting vaccinated.

Another problem reported by those who attempted to get a vaccine this weekend was the method of receiving it. While several neighboring counties, including Moore and Warren, held drive-through vaccination stations, the Tullahoma health department did not have the room to do so.

A long line of senior citizens hoping to receive their first dose of the vaccine stretched down Wilson Avenue, with some individuals arriving at 6 in the morning – two hours before the vaccines were scheduled to be given out.

The lack of communication in how many vaccine doses were available also frustrated people. With hundreds of people lined up hoping to receive a vaccine and only 100 doses available, scores of senior citizens ended up spending a significant portion of their morning out in the cold with nothing to show for it.

The long lines at the Tullahoma Health Department were also noted by larger media outlets, including a Chattanooga news website and The New York Times, citing larger distribution problems across the state and country.

As of Monday, Jan. 4, the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency announced the health department would have limited supplies of vaccines available starting today (Wednesday), Jan. 6, though all available appointments to receive those vaccines had already been filled.

The vaccine distribution for Coffee County is now located at the Coffee County Fairgrounds and will take place each Monday, Wednesday and Friday while vaccine supplies last.

Appointments are recommended for anyone needing a vaccine, though health department officials announced the next available appointments would start next week.

To schedule an appointment, contact your local health department clinic. The Tullahoma Health Department clinic can be reached at 931-455-9369.

Managing Editor

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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