White House vaccine summit

Four governors share the stage with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a COVID-19 vaccine summit. From left: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Azar, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

(The Center Square) – Tennessee’s annual Fight Flu TN immunization day helped the state develop its plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Gov. Bill Lee shared at a White House Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on Tuesday afternoon.

Lee spoke on a panel on how states plan to prioritize and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine when they receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Bel Edwards of Louisiana also spoke on the panel, moderated by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

“Tennessee started several years ago with pandemic immunization preparedness by pulling up something we call Fight Flu TN, and we do once a year a broad immunization day across the state,” Lee said. “That process gave us a blueprint for how to do what it is that we're going to be doing in the next few weeks. Because of the Fight Flu TN process, our public health officials had practice in the logistics of this.”

Lee was one of a handful of governors in the room at the White House summit, along with Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey. He estimated COVID-19 vaccinations would be administered within 24 to 48 hours of being delivered to the state.

Tennessee is expected to receive about 56,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in the first round of delivery, according to Piercey’s comments during a roundtable with Vice President Mike Pence and Azar in Memphis last week.

At Tuesday's summit, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to prioritize getting the COVID-19 vaccine to American citizens before sending it to other nations, saying he would invoke the Defense Production Act, if necessary, to ensure swift deployment of the vaccine.

“This is one of the greatest miracles in the history of modern day medicine, or any other age of medicine,” Trump said. “American companies were the first to produce a verifiably safe and effective vaccine. Together we will defeat the virus and we will soon end the pandemic and we will save millions and millions of lives, both in our country and all over the world.”

Staff Reporter

Vivian Jones reports on Tennessee and South Carolina for The Center Square. Her writing has appeared in the Detroit News, The Hill, and publications of The Heartland Institute.