MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County health leaders say COVID-19 shots for children ages five to 11 years old are now underway, and there are bigger plans in the works to get shots into arms at pharmacies, private clinics, and pediatrician offices.

At the Shelby County Health Department on Jefferson Avenue, the vaccine rollout for elementary aged children has officially begun.

“The health department is offering the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 at its immunization clinic at 814 Jefferson,” said health director Dr. Michelle Taylor.

More than 40 authorized providers will be administering the pediatric vaccine once all the shipments arrive in Memphis.

“By about early next week we should have most of the providers authorized to do those pediatric doses available, and that is Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, and other private clinics,” said City of Memphis COO Doug McGowen.

Unless like for adults, mass vaccination sites with drive through lines won’t be used for younger kids for safety reasons.

“Five to 11 year olds will likely have to step out of car, and that puts a little bit higher risk, especially for kids who may be frightened of getting a vaccination,” McGowen said.

As for the Biden Administration’s new vaccine mandate or rules for private businesses with 100 or more employees, Shelby County is still waiting for guidance.

“Until we get more guidance on what that will look like and what the rules will be through OSHA, we can’t really say how we’ll be able to support that federal law,” Taylor said.

But the health department director did have a clear message about a Tennessee bill headed to Governor Bill Lee’s desk that could weaken her agency’s authority.

“We are the ones who live here,” Taylor said. “We are the ones dealing with what’s going on the ground, and it’s very hard for someone in Nashville or any place else who doesn’t live here to understand what we have to do and the calls we make when it come public health.”

Health experts say that public health measures are working.

“I think it’s fair to say we are on the correct side of the surge,” Taylor said. “We are still mostly seeing Delta if people are infected with COVID and haven’t been any predominant new strains in Shelby County.”

The health department also says any adult needing transportation to and from a vaccination site can call 901-222-shot.