MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many people are awaiting booster shot details after the FDA gives its okay to the Pfizer vaccine. It’s a major development, but it’s one that comes as a new grim milestone has been reached.

Fresh on the heels of a FDA panel endorsing Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shots for people 65 and older, and high-risk patients, City of Memphis leaders and Shelby County health experts address when the rollout could begin locally.

“Dr. Taylor and I agree more information is required before we can begin administering those boosters to people other than those immunocompromised,” Doug McGowen, the City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer said.

The word of the booster shot approval and the push to get more people vaccinated comes at a time when it was revealed that Shelby County will have to return thousands of expired doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the state of Tennessee.

“Unfortunately, because of lack of demand and despite our best efforts, on September 21 we had to return 3,000 doses to the state of Tennessee. That was the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” McGowen said.

Earlier in the year, many vials of vaccine had been broken and many doses were wasted, leading to a investigation by the State of Tennessee.

It was also announced this week that Shelby County has reached a somber milestone. On Thursday, more than 2,000 people had died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

“We do mourn for this milestone. It is frustrating to say the least. We have reached this milestone know that a percentage of those who have passed away maybe have been able to be vaccinated and it could have saved their life,” Shelby County Health director Dr. Michelle Taylor said.

On Thursday, more than 420 new cases were reported, and the seven-day new case average stood at 399. Taylor says she’s cautiously optimistic about the seven-day average and positivity rate dropping.

“These trends are encouraging, but to bring this pandemic to an end in Shelby County we must continue this course,” Taylor said.

Those slightly better numbers still won’t mean any drastic changes being made to the current Shelby County health directive.

“The health directive will be renewed, and we will be looking at numbers to see if there can be any easing, but right now there are no plans to ease any of the current strategies in place,” Taylor said.  

Almost 42 percent of the county’s population is fully vaccinated. Fifty-three percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine.