Ballad Health: 6,200 vaccines administered so far, 50 percent of team members electing to take it

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Since administering the first COVID-19 vaccine in the region to a team member last Tuesday, Ballad Health leaders say the healthcare system has now administered 6,200 vaccines across its facilities so far.

Ballad leaders gave updates on vaccine distribution at a briefing on Wednesday.

“This really is a ray of hope and sunshine,” said Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton.

Officials said today around 50 percent of their team members are electing to be vaccinated.

“I wish it was higher. We would love to see, obviously, 100 percent,” said Deaton. “I think it’s just going to take time for some people, and it’s obviously an individual decision you have to make as you feel more comfortable.”

The Ballad Health system is still expecting around 7,000 more doses of the Pfizer vaccine to come in, and 2,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine to come in next week, according to officials on Wednesday.

Ballad leaders addressed several vaccine-related questions, including whether their team members were experiencing side effects.

“They have been experiencing some minor side effects,” said Dr. Clay Runnels, Ballad chief physician executive. “Mostly what we’re seeing is soreness at the injection site. We haven’t seen anything that’s outside of the numbers we would expect from the Phase 3 trials.”

Officials said distribution has now extended beyond frontline workers dealing directly with COVID-19 patients to include other team members and hospital volunteers.

Ballad leaders said the healthcare system will also be assisting the Sullivan County and Northeast Regional health departments with vaccinations. The system must adhere to Tennessee and Virginia’s distribution guidelines for who gets the vaccine first.

Tennessee’s vaccine distribution phases (TDH)

“We’re preparing today as we speak to reach out to that 1a2 group, as they would call it in Tennessee, for healthcare workers in the community. And we feel like we will be able to start with providing some vaccines to that group as early as Monday,” said Runnels.

On Monday Ballad Health saw their highest-ever amount of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at 335. The total dropped to 305 inpatients Wednesday.

Ballad has seen 501 in-house COVID-19 patient deaths as of Tuesday across its service area, with December on track to be even deadlier than November’s totals.

“We’ve now, unfortunately, crossed the 1,000 mark for deaths regionally across our region,” said Deaton.

Officials cautioned the public against gathering with people outside their household for the holidays, concerned virus spread will challenge their hospital’s capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Deaton also said 226 Ballad team members are in quarantine, either having COVID-19 or showing symptoms.

“It puts a lot of strain on our team members, especially those who are there everyday,” he said.

You can watch the full briefing below:

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