KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have arrived at Holston Valley Medical Center on Thursday.

News Channel 11’s Kaylyn Kluck was at the medical center, where the vaccines were delivered and unloaded.

“I really think that this is going to be the game-changer right here,” said Dr. Evan Kulbacki, the Medical Director of Marsh Regional Blood Center.

Eagerly anticipated and handled with extreme care, this first box of vaccines represented a turning point for medical workers.

“We’re excited to get the vaccine because we’ve seen the other side of what happens when somebody gets infected with this. So this vaccine is a great hope,” said Kulbacki.

The doses must be kept in dry-ice freezers at ultra-low temperatures. They then must be thawed, diluted, and injected in the recipient’s arm all within a certain time frame to ensure they’re receiving the vaccine in its best quality.

“There’s a lot of moving parts and wheels and knobs that are turning. It’s interesting that it can all be synchronized into this final piece where someone is sitting in a chair getting vaccinated,” said Kulbacki.

The first recipient this afternoon was registered nurse Marcia McMurray. She has cared for COVID positive patients since they first started arriving at the hospital.

“Right now our entire floor is nothing but COVID. First we just had hall. But our entire floor is now dedicated to COVID patients,” McMurray told News Channel 11.


Ballad staff said nearly 100 people would be vaccinated on this first day. Frontline workers in organized groups will be able to visit the pods in the coming days to receive the vaccine if they choose to do so. Ballad Health is not currently mandating that their employees take the vaccine.

McMurray said she wanted the vaccine to help protect her patients and others.

“It protects me and my family. I’ve got a mother that’s very high risk. She lives in Texas and I’ve not seen her in over a year. So this means a lot. Maybe it’s a step closer to getting to see her,” she said.

Dr. Kulbacki hopes others in the community will consider being vaccinated when it’s their turn.

“The technology’s actually been around for about 30 years,” he said. “People have been studying this for years. And you know, they say, ‘well coronavirus is a new virus too.’ But we’ve been studying coronaviruses for the past 30 years and know about the spike protein. And this vaccine is actually against the spike protein so this is kind of the culmination of a pandemic and new technology meeting.”

Ballad leaders said they anticipate around 6,000 doses total being distributed to their Tennessee facilities as part of this first round of vaccines. The vaccine is also being administered at pods at Johnson City Medical Center and Bristol Regional Medical Center as well.

On Tuesday, Ballad Health administered its first vaccine in the health system to Emily Boucher, a registered nurse at Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon. In Virginia, pods are located at Johnston Memorial and Norton Community Hospital.