TDH’S online vaccine tool comes as vaccine supply is limited leading to frustrations

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Watauga, Tenn. (WJHL)- The Tennessee Department of Health’s new appointment scheduling website spells out who can get a vaccine in which phase. It allows you to find out if vaccines are available in your county and register for an appointment with your county health department when you’re eligible and supply is available.

Northeast Regional Health Department Director Dr. David Kirschke says the region has received a limited amount of vaccines and he isn’t sure when more will arrive.

“Our counties in NER received little to no vaccine last week and what little we had was given to persons in phases 1a1 and 1a2 or 75+ who had preregistered and were called to come in,” Kirschke said. “We have very little advanced notice or forecasting of how much vaccine to expect from day to day. Availability from the manufacture has been limited. As vaccine become available in each county we will call persons who have preregistered.

“That’s just going to be one centralized location where their health department is vaccinating and when they can get an appointment,” said Ballad Health’s Chief Infection Prevention office, Jamie Swift, welcoming the brand new online scheduler.

She thinks it gives people who want a vaccine and are eligible an easy way to get one quickly.

“There really are multiple options at this point for anybody who is 75 and older to get vaccinated within the region,” said Swift.

People can call their local health department, get one from a physician at Ballad Health if they are an established patient or go to the Bristol Motor Speedway where no appointment is needed, no matter which county they reside.

“For us to possibly have to sit in line for 3-4 hours, she could not do that,” said a frustrated Evelyn Hart.

She’s been trying for weeks to get a vaccine for her 83-year-old mother-in-law, Myrna Hart, who spent five days in the COVID ICU Unit at Johnson City Medical Center last July.

“We called the Carter Co. Health Department last Monday. It actually took me 284 calls to finally get through to them,” Hart said. “She has sat in the house now for almost a year and the only place she gets to go is the doctor’s office. She would like to get out and about if at all possible.”

That was a week ago. Hart’s mother-in-law still doesn’t have an appointment. So, they turned to the online scheduler.

“She could not have done that by herself. That’s why I had to do it for her,” Hart said. “She doesn’t know how to navigate to those sites so therefore it would be very hard for her to do so.”

While Myrna can work her iPad well for reading and other apps, Hart worries her mother-in-law could have given the wrong information or got on the wrong website if she had tried alone.

“I would be afraid she would get bumped down on the list and I’m afraid with all the scams that go on what if she were to go to a wrong site not knowing that it was the incorrect site,” Hart said.

Last year, an antibody test revealed Evelyn had Covid-19 before cases were being counted in the region. She has pulmonary issues resulting from the virus and type 2 diabetes. She is also trying to register herself for the vaccine.

“Its kind of frustrating that our county hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet when we hear so much wonderful stuff about Sullivan County and them being able to vaccinate and Ballad being able to vaccinate those 75 and over,” Hart said.

Dr. Kirschke says vaccine allocation is based on population by county and administered doses are being recorded in the state’s vaccine registry.

“We have very little advanced notice or forecasting of how much vaccine to expect from day to day. Availability from the manufacture has been limited,” said Kirschke. “As vaccine become available in each county we will call persons who have preregistered.”

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