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Vaccine tourism: TN Dept. of Health encourages people not to cross counties for COVID shot

FILE PHOTO: (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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The Tennessee Department of Health is encouraging Tennesseans not to engage in what they call "vaccine tourism."

Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey is aware some Tennesseans are traveling outside of their county of residence to receive their COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Piercey says while people in the correct phases will likely not be turned away in a different county, she is asking people not to cross county lines to get their COVID-19 shots.

Why? Each county's vaccine allocation is based on that specific county's population.

“We’ve always said these vaccines are not constrained by county lines or by state lines, so there is no prohibition on that. However, we do encourage people to get vaccinated in their own county," Dr. Piercey said. "There’s a really important reason why. That is because that county’s allocation is based on their population. It doesn’t account for people coming in from another county or even another state.”

Dr. Piercey expressed that "vaccine tourism" may also contribute to potential second-dose scheduling conflicts.

“So when you’re talking about second doses, wherever a person had their first dose, that is where their second dose is being earmarked. Now, I’m not saying that you couldn’t get a second dose somewhere else but I’m not sure that you could be guaranteed a second dose in a different county,” Dr. Piercey explained.

The commissioner added that anyone who receives their first dose of the vaccine in Tennessee is guaranteed a second dose. However, she said each county is scheduling vaccines differently based on what's happening in their own community.

“I would strongly encourage all of your viewers to not cross county lines for this," Dr. Piercey said during a press call. "You’re not going to be turned away, but that is taking vaccine away from those county residents.”

Right now, the Tennessee Department of Health's top priority is making sure the elderly and other vulnerable Tennesseans have been vaccinated to protect themselves from the virus. One third of residents 70 and older have been vaccinated so far. RELATED STORY: 'Be a good Volunteer' Tennesseans urged to help in push to get 70+ seniors vaccinated

Find your county's vaccination phase information here.

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Health officials are still urging residents to wear facial coverings, keep their distance, and wash their hands to curb the spread of the virus.

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