Southwest first community college in Tennessee to open drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site

By Diana Fedinec 

Image Alt text
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett
and President Tracy D. Hall greet each other
at Southwest’s Whitehaven Center March 5, 2021. 

Southwest’s calling to be the community’s college took on historic significance when it opened a COVID-19 vaccination site at its Whitehaven Center February 5, 2021. The College became the first in Tennessee to host a drive-thru location in partnership with the Shelby County Health Department. 

“The Covid-19 vaccination is a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel and Southwest is proud to partner with Shelby County Government to help deliver the vaccine to Shelby County residents,” Southwest President Dr. Tracy D. Hall said at a January 28 press conference announcing the opening. “Southwest is the community’s college. We welcome this opportunity to go beyond the classroom to assist in overcoming this public health crisis.” 

The Whitehaven vaccination site has become a model site for other vaccination centers thanks to Dr. Vernita Boone, director of the Whitehaven Center and Point of Delivery Supervisor for the vaccines. “We have a safe and smooth operation here,” Dr. Boone said. “We oversee the logistics, provide security and assist when needed with checking in and vaccinating individuals." 

Initially the site distributed first doses only of the Pfizer vaccine to eligible residents. Second doses of the vaccine were added when eligibility requirements loosened. About 37,000 vaccinations have been administered as of May 2021. 

The site’s success caught the attention of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett who thanked health care workers and volunteers for their service during his March 5 visit to the Whitehaven Center. “We appreciate your leadership,” Hargett said to the first responders. Dr. Hall briefed Hargett on the Colleges response to the Coronavirus while he toured the center and met with Student Government Association leaders and senior staff. 

Southwest’s Police Services and Public Safety teamed up with Dr. Boone to provide security and nursing and allied health students assisted in administering injections. “Southwest students are eager to be a part of this effort and excited to play a small part in this historic pandemic,” said Dr. Sheila Bouie, director of Nursing. “When we put the call out for volunteers, we had a tremendous response. Our students are skilled, knowledgeable and ready to serve.”

Following the successful launch of the Whitehaven site, Southwest opened a second Pfizer vaccination site April 20 at the Gill Center in Frayser under the supervision of Ron Claxton, Associate Director of Advising and Academic Support. The Gill site operated about a month before it closed May 26 as the demand for vaccinations decreased and more outlets opened to administer the shots.

The Whitehaven Center vaccination now offers vaccinations without appointments. The site is scheduled to remain open through the month of June. For more information about vaccinations, visit Shelby.Community online. For more information about the College’s pandemic response, visit the College’s coronavirus website

Hargett meets with SGA  
Hargett meets with SGA leaders and Dr. Hall. 

 Harget Elbow Bump
Hargett elbow bumps with health care professionals
inside the COVID-19 vaccination tent at the
Whitehaven Center.









Southwest Nursing Students 
Southwest nursing students were ready to assist
with vaccinations at the Whitehaven Center.

Student Volunteers
Southwest student volunteers Dagan, a 2021
graduate in early childhood education and Jason,
a business and technologies major, at the
Gill Center vaccination site.








To watch a brief video of Hargett’s visit at the Whitehaven Center here or click on the graphic below. 

Hargett Center