MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department is making plans for children ages 5 to 11 to able get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

A day after the White House unveiled plans to roll out coronavirus vaccines for children ages 5 through 11, Dr. Michelle Taylor, the Shelby County Health Department Director, calls it a potential game changer.

“That’s going to be a game changer not only for the country, but especially Shelby County,” Taylor said. “It will drive our vaccination rates up and most importantly it will protect even more people in our community.”

Taylor says the health department will be ready.

“Shelby County Health Department and the other providers in the community will be prepared to start giving those vaccinations almost as soon as they are approved. We are making preparations now,” Taylor said.

 For example, the health department is deciding will the vaccines be given out at school or pharmacies or use a mass vaccination site such as the Pipkin Building?

“We know that more than likely we will need a separate tent,” Taylor said. “We need to more than likely have a separate lane and take those kids out of the car and hold them more effectively than we’d have to do as an adult.”

As many await approval of the vaccine, many businesses with 100 or more employees await federal regulations on vaccine mandates. Taylor says the health department has been consulting with many businesses.

“First, you need to determine how many employees may not be vaccinated and then decide how you’re going to accomplish following the rules, which means how are you going to convince the employees to get vaccinated or setting up a regular testing program for those employees who choose not to get vaccinate,” Taylor said.

As for mask restrictions being eased when a new health directive comes out next week, Taylor is still urging the public to be patient.

“If we can keep our mitigation efforts in place a little bit longer, especially with the holidays approaching and people planning to gather, and I believe that if we can get those 5 to 11-year-olds approved for vaccinations and vaccinated then we can talk about easing restrictions,” Taylor said.

Taylor says almost 44 percent of people eligible to get the vaccine in Shelby County are now fully vaccinated