(WJHL)- Ballad Health has rolled out an online scheduling tool for community COVID vaccinations — and rejoined the community vaccination effort in Tennessee after a weeks-long hiatus.
In a release this afternoon about the new online scheduling option, Ballad noted that it was opening community vaccination centers (CVCs) in Elizabethton and Kingsport in Tennessee.
Ballad conducted community vaccinations for a couple of weeks in January — though those were limited to patients of Ballad Health medical providers.
When vaccine supply didn’t tick up quickly, the hospital system closed its CVCs in Tennessee Jan. 22, while keeping those in Virginia open.
“That was important to get it out to as many people as possible but we also wanted to open it to the entire community and I think that’s important that anyone who wants it … you get access to a vaccine,” Ballad Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said Friday.
At the time, CEO Alan Levine said it didn’t make sense for the system to stay involved while supply from the state was low and area health departments were having no problem using the weekly supply allocated from the state.
That has begun to change, supply-wise, and Ballad officials expect supply to keep ticking upward.
“We’re seeing better (vaccine) supply from both Virginia and Tennessee,” Deaton said.
For now, rather than receive vaccine directly from the Tennessee Department of Health, Ballad is getting supplies from the Sullivan County Health Department and Northeast Regional Health Office in collaboration with them.
“We’re getting at least 500 doses per week from both of those,” Deaton said.
Ballad’s initial Johnson City-area CVC was at its busy Wellness Center near Franklin Woods Community Hospital. That was relocated to the former Franklin Club next to Sycamore Shoals Hospital in Elizabethton.
That opened Tuesday and Ballad spent the last several days making sure it was running smoothly. Monday, a site at Indian Path Hospital will reopen.
The sites will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, up to five days depending on vaccine supply. Ballad will look into the possibility of some weekend hours. First-come first-served options are being considered but Deaton said those have multiple drawbacks.
Ballad also continues operating CVCs in Norton and Abingdon, Va. The system’s operation of CVCs in Virginia has continued uninterrupted.
Community members 65 and older and health care workers can sign up in Tennessee. In Virginia, the community options will broaden Monday to include residents 16-64 years old who have chronic health conditions.
Friday, Ballad touted the online scheduling option in a release. It can be accessed at Ballad’s COVID-19 page:
Deaton said he expects supplies to continue increasing and for people’s options to broaden even further as pharmacy chains begin vaccinations. He said the region has stayed ahead of per capita vaccination rates in both Tennessee and Virginia thanks to close coordination among all providers.
“We’re in constant communication and have great working relationships with the health departments,” he said.
“Now that we have online scheduling in place, we’re taking a major step forward in reaching into our communities to help more people secure this potentially life-saving inoculation.”
People who use Ballad CVCs must receive both their doses at the same location.
Community members must bring a photo ID when they arrive at their vaccine appointments, and healthcare workers should bring their work ID badge. Second doses will be scheduled when patients check in, and everyone must be observed for at least 15 minutes after receiving the shot to monitor for any possible side effects.