First Tenn. Development District launches campaign to vaccinate region with mobile vans using grant funds

Local Coronavirus Coverage

(WJHL) – BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee awarded a grant to the First Tennessee Development District to start COVID-19 vaccinations from mobile vans.

The effort to get more people in the region vaccinated is a partnership between The First Tennessee Development District Foundation, the BlueCross Foundation, Region A.H.E.A.D. and the Regional DEI Alliance.

TFDD officials said the campaign, entitled “Take a Shot on Life,” will use funds from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s $541,700 grant.

“The grant is going towards mobile vaccination vans within the eight counties that the First Tennessee Development District represents in northeast Tennessee. And we’re going to market to individuals that are less likely to vaccinated,” Andy Dietrich of Region AHEAD said.

The money will be used to pay for three vans that will travel to rural areas to administer vaccines to people who may not be able to visit clinics or vaccination events.

“The mobile vaccination vans will be able to go to businesses, churches, senior centers that have people that haven’t been vaccinated yet. Or, for example, you’ve got a company here in town that have a lot of hourly workers, and those hourly workers can’t take off to go get vaccinated. Well, we can go and set up there at their office, in their parking lot,” Dietrich added. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated. So if you don’t have time or don’t have a way or means to get to one of the vaccination centers, we are going to try to come to you or as close to you as we possibly can.”

“BCBSTF awarded the grant based on the FTDD Foundation’s emphasis on both a public service campaign to encourage everyone eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination and an imaginative plan to mobilize three teams of health professionals to visit locations where travel or access to mass vaccination locations may not be as accessible,” according to the release

“We’re really pleased that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Foundation is funding this grant for us there’s really two components. One of them is all the media we will need to do all the promotion that we’re going to do billboards, TV, etc, to really promote the fight, please go get your vaccine, it’s very important. The other piece of that is for us to have three mobile vaccines that will be staffed by Ballad Health, the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Department, the Sullivan County Health Department, and potentially ETSU. So those vans will go throughout our eight county region, to be able to set up, let’s say in the evening or on the weekend, to be able to make it really convenient and for there to be access for people to get their, their vaccines,” Lottie Ryans of the First Tennessee Development District said.

Mobile vaccination sites are planned in Carter, Hancock, Hawkins, Greene, Johnson, Unicoi, Sullivan, and Washington Counties.

Ryans told News Channel 11 that Ballad Health donated one of the vans and grant funds will be used to purchase two more, with the rest of the funds going to marketing and salaries.

The hope is to stock the vans with Johnson and Johnson vaccines to reach the most people with a “one and done” shot, but Ryans said any vaccine would do.

“Johnson and Johnson will be our preferred, again, because we want to make sure that we can go to as many places as possible, we will absolutely make sure that they return if we use Moderna or Pfizer, so there’s no question about that,” she said.

All of the shots administered at the mobile vaccination sites will be free, and the vaccinations will be administered by qualified Ballad Health or health department medical professionals.

“Our ultimate goal is to get 70 to 75% of people in this region vaccinated so it will become a herd immunity and we don’t have to wear masks anymore. And this pandemic will eventually go away and life will get back to normal,” Dietrich added.

The group said they hope to have the mobile vans up and running by mid-April and have them running through August.

To register a site for the vans to park, the group said a website will be set up in the next few weeks.

For updates, follow News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais on Facebook and Twitter.

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