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Knox County hospital leaders look to future amid pandemic

East Tennessee hospital leaders and local community leaders came together Wednesday afternoon for a roundtable discussion on the surge of COVID-19 in the area and Knox County.
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Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 5:25 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Two days after health officials said December has been the deadliest month for COVID-19 in Knox County local leaders and hospital leaders came together for a roundtable discussion on the virus, the vaccine and the area’s outlook amid the pandemic.

Knoxville Recovers hosted a special meeting Wednesday at 3 p.m. called “COVID and the Community -- Our Next Steps Together” featuring State Senator Richard Briggs, Knox County Commission Chair Larsen Jay, Knoxville Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie, Farragut Vice Mayor Louise Povlin and experts from the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Covenant Health, Tennova and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

Hospital leaders appeared optimistic in the meeting, encouraged by the announcement of the Pfizer vaccine, which was just recently approved for use by the FDA. Dr. Mark Browne, with Covenant Health, said that medical professionals “do believe the Moderna vaccine is soon to follow.” This week, Tennessee received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine. One day ago, officials announced that Knox County is expected to receive the Moderna vaccine as early as next week.

Though the arrival of the vaccine has sent a wave of relief among medical professionals and non-medical professionals alike, Browne added that the vaccine “is not going to change our future overnight.” Having the vaccine, he said, is a step, as it will take time to get citizens vaccinated. As of now, at least in Tennessee, vaccines are being handed out to priority groups, and the when, where and how for regular residents receiving the vaccine is still up in the air.

Other health experts at the meeting spoke up to reassure listeners about the efficacy of the vaccine and its safety.

“The vaccine has not been rushed,” said Dr. John Adams with Covenant. “It is a result of major changes in our understanding of molecular biology.”

Dr. Mark Rasnake, with UT Medical, chimed in to say that such high levels of efficacy with vaccines is unheard of.

Though no one in Tennessee will be forced to take the vaccine, according to Governor Bill Lee, Browne encouraged residents to get the vaccine when one becomes available to them.

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