Ballad Health CEO to staff: COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory for team members ‘at this time’

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – In a memo to employees, Ballad Health Chairman & CEO Alan Levine addressed the fast-approaching release of a COVID-19 vaccine, and if team members will be required to get immunized once the vaccine is available.

The short answer, was not immediately.

In the note to Ballad employees, Levine said in part, “Remember, we are not making this vaccine mandatory for Ballad Health team members at this time.  We do respect that some may have a desire to wait and see, and feel it is prudent to respect your health care decisions.  As you know, we do require the flu vaccine, and that requirement remains in place.  Over time, we may revisit this COVID vaccine policy once there is more data from which to provide comfort to those who would prefer to observe the experience of those who have been vaccinated.”

Levine did note that when the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available for him, he plans to receive it.

“So far, former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have said they plan to take the vaccine on camera to promote its safety, and when it becomes available to me, I intend to do the same,” Levine said.

It was mentioned in the memo that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will begin shipping to states within the next 24 hours. 

“Highest priority will initially be given to hospital based front line health care workers with direct patient exposure or potentially infectious material, and to residents of long term care facilities.  Vaccine supply is expected to increase steadily in 2021, and we will act quickly to make the vaccine available to everyone who wants it,” Levine said.

In his message to employees Levine also addressed the safety of the vaccine saying in part, “During its phase 3 trial of more than 43,000 participants, Pfizer/BioNTech announced its vaccine was 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19.  This is remarkably good news which means we can expect excellent personal protection from vaccination.  Studies released earlier this week show the vaccine has a good safety profile. ”

While Levine stressed the importance of the vaccine he also said, “infection prevention measures such as mask wearing and physical distancing will continue to be vital in our fight against this pandemic.”

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