JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Ballad Health officials said starting Wednesday anyone 16 or older will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but that’s not all.
Hours after Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine made the announcement on social media, Ballad officials told News Channel 11 they won’t turn away anyone from outside of the region looking for the vaccine.
Molly Lutton of Ballad Health posted to social media Tuesday, “Vaccine tourism: destination @AppHighlands. Let’s do this thing.”
When we spoke to Ballad Health’s Chief Operating Officer, Eric Deaton, he said that because these vaccine allocations are coming from the federal government, the supply is not taking away from people here in the Tri-Cities region.
“It’s a program that goes across the entire country. We’re really encouraging everyone to get a vaccine. So, if they happen to come from out-of-state so be it,” said Deaton. We just want everyone in our region which includes southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina to get the vaccine.”
Even if you come to the Tri-Cities to be vaccinated from out of state or a nearby region, Deaton said your data will still be filed in the county you reside in.
“I don’t really envision people traveling hours to come here if they’re maybe in Asheville, if they’re maybe in Norton Virginia and that want to get a vaccine now versus waiting until their state opens up a little bit more… I think that’s a very easy type of day trip,” he said. “I don’t think it’s really like taking a vacation. It’s more like you’re going to get a vaccine within a few hours and going home.”
In a release Tuesday afternoon Ballad officials also said, “People do not need to be a resident of Tennessee to receive the vaccination at the Ballad Health CVCs in Kingsport or Elizabethton; anyone is welcome.”
“We really don’t see a lot of people come from out-of-state but probably from around the fringes because of where we live, we’re very close to two other states. Other parts of the country may not have the same proximity to other states like we are so it kind of evens out over the long term,” said Deaton. “We’re encouraging people to get the wherever they can so, whether it be that they live in North Carolina or Virginia, Tennessee… get wherever you can whenever you can. We’re just not going to stop people from coming here to get it.”
We also reached out to officials with the Tennessee Department of Health regarding access to vaccines and received the following statement.
“Vaccine is provided by the federal government and should be accessible to all people. Our health departments do not ask for proof of residency. At the present time our vaccine supply and resources exceed demand.”Bill Christian, TN Dept. of Health