Northeast Tennessee’s early vaccination rates far exceeding state average

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Led by Washington County’s state-high percentage, Northeast Tennessee is far exceeding the state rate of vaccinated residents according to Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) data.

TDH’s “COVID vaccine county summary” is updated through Jan. 1. It shows 3.78% of Washington County residents had been vaccinated through the date — double the state rate of 1.86%.

Sullivan County’s 2.54% rate put it seventh-highest among Tennessee’s 95 counties. All told, 13,085 of Northeast Tennessee’s 505,609 residents had been vaccinated through New Year’s Day, a rate of 2.59%.

Davidson County’s 15,823 vaccinations was the highest raw number and represented 2.28% of the county’s 694,150 residents. That ranked 16th per capita.

The state’s most populous county, Shelby, had vaccinated just 11,006 people — 1.17% of its 937,166 residents.

While the area’s figures represent very early data from the vaccine rollout process, Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said they were very encouraging.

Ballad has led vaccination of many 1a1 and 1a2 health care workers, both Ballad employees and others, and had administered nearly 12,000 out of its 14,000 available doses by Monday.

The system has set up “pods” where eligible people can get vaccinated and is contacting those from other health care providers when there’s an opportunity for them to get vaccinated.

“I think the pods have done a really good job,” Deaton said. “They’ve been very efficient in the way they’ve run and I think that we’ve really leaned into this.

“We want to get as many people vaccinated as possible as soon as possible.”

Ballad is coordinating with the Virginia health departments within its footprint as well as the Sullivan County and Northeast Regional Health Office in Tennessee.

“Wherever they need our help we’re stepping in with that. We’re also looking at creating some community pods of our own here in the next few days for those people that are 75 and older.”

Deaton said the system would begin that process with patients of Ballad Health Medical Associates but is willing to aid health departments to the extent possible.

“I know that the health departments have been overwhelmed with phone calls … you just can’t handle that volume so we’re just trying to help be a valve to kind of decompress some of that and support them the very best that we can.”

Deaton said it’s in the system’s self-interest to get as many older people and those with co-morbidities (underlying illnesses) vaccinated quickly.

“We hit a record high again today of hospitalization, almost 350 patients in-house,” he said.

Getting older people and those with underlying conditions “can help us get our census down so it’s more manageable and it’s not so overwhelming and causing burnout to our team members.”

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