‘We lead by example’: Northeast Tenn. sees vaccine rush for teachers, those 75+

Local Coronavirus Coverage

TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – All week, registration for the COVID-19 vaccine will continue for those who are 75 and older across Northeast Tennessee counties.

With the exception of Sullivan County, local health departments opened eligibility on Saturday to receive the vaccine to those over the age of 75 and teachers who qualify in stage 1b of distribution.

Saturday, there were long lines of cars and busy phone lines as those 75 and older rushed to register for the vaccine in most Northeast Tennessee counties.

“There had to be 200 cars behind me. Easily over 200 cars by 8:30,” said Elizabethton High School choir teacher Deborah Gouge.

Gouge said that despite the extended wait, the long line was a glimmer of hope.

“It’s a good tool for us and I think it makes us less of a risk,” Gouge said. “I think it is really important for us not to take this back to our families or for the students to take this back to their families who may be medically fragile or have some issues already.”

The high volume of phone calls left many frustrated, but county health departments also saw a number of individuals committed to registering for the vaccine.

“We got there about 7:30 that morning and began calling the health department as soon as they opened at 8 a.m.,” said Paezha McCartt.

McCartt is a doctoral student studying public health. She says she would do whatever it took to get her grandfather the vaccine.

The phone lines were very busy as anyone could expect,” McCartt said. “I called over 100 times before I spoke to someone and I was already sitting in line. But I did get through, and I was able to reserve that vaccine for him.”

Like Gouge, the long line to register for the vaccine was a good sign in McCartt’s opinion.

“I adore my grandfather and I want him on this earth as long as possible,” McCartt said. “I’ve tried to protect my grandparents from COVID-19 from day one, and for us this vaccine was the next step in that process of protecting them.”

Those who are choosing to get the vaccine are now hoping others will do the same when it is widely available.

“We lead by example,” Gouge said. “This is such a wonderful opportunity for us to try to get back to what we would like to consider to be normal.”

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