NEW: Ballad Health announces eventual closure of community COVID vaccine centers due to health department changes
Ballad Health announced they will no longer be providing the first dose of the COVID vaccine to patients at community vaccination centers in Kingsport and Bristol.
The healthcare provider said the move was due to changes in policy related to allocation and distribution of the serum by the Tennessee Department of Health.
The Johnson City center will stop administering the first shot of the vaccine on Friday. The Bristol and Kingsport centers will end their distribution on Saturday.
All of those locations will continue to provide second-dose vaccines and then the Kingsport and Bristol locations will shut down, the organization said, with the Johnson City center’s future to be determined at a later date.
Ballad Health will continue to assist the Mount Rogers, Cumberland Plateau, and Lenowisco Health Districts with normal operations at their vaccine centers.
Here is the information sent out by the group on Thursday afternoon:
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Due to changes in policy related to allocation and distribution of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines by the Tennessee Department of Health, Ballad Health is winding down its Tennessee-based community vaccination centers (CVCs) in Kingsport and Bristol.
The CVCs in Kingsport and Bristol will cease giving first doses of the vaccine on Saturday, Jan. 23, while its center in Johnson City will provide its final first dose on Friday, Jan. 22.
All three Tennessee centers will still provide second-dose vaccines to everyone who received their first shot. After the second-dose administration is complete, the Kingsport and Bristol CVCs will cease operation. The future of the Johnson City CVC will be evaluated, pending future first-dose vaccine allocations from the Tennessee Department of Health.
The Virginia-based community vaccination centers, located in Abingdon and Norton, will continue operations as normal, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health and the Mount Rogers, Cumberland Plateau and Lenowisco Health Districts.
Ballad Health is proud to have supported the vaccination effort in Tennessee in support of the Tennessee Department of Health and the Metropolitan Sullivan County Health Department. Ballad Health has provided more than 27,600 doses in Northeast Tennessee, amounting to more than 59% of the 46,275 vaccinations provided in those counties as of Monday, Jan. 18. Vaccination rates in Northeast Tennessee – as well as Southwest Virginia – far outpace state-wide averages in both Tennessee and Virginia, as well as the national averages. Ballad Health has provided more than 6,663 doses in its Commonwealth counties.
Ballad Health established its community vaccination centers with the support of the Tennessee and Virginia Department of Health to assist with vaccine distribution and provide the shots to community healthcare workers, frontline caregivers and some community members who are over the age of 75.
Recently, the Tennessee Department of Health made a policy decision to shift distribution away from hospitals, and thus, the supply of vaccines being provided to Ballad Health from the Tennessee Department of Health has been reduced substantially.
Decisions regarding the amount of vaccines and where they are distributed are made solely by state departments of health. Future vaccination distribution, including the expansion of the vaccine to other age groups, job roles and risk categories, is dependent on guidance by Tennessee and Virginia departments of health. As such, any vaccine-related questions in Tennessee or Virginia should be directed to the respective local and state departments of health.
As the Tennessee Department of Health has now identified five cases within the state of the COVID-19 variant found in the United Kingdom (UK), commonly known as B-117, Ballad Health in a race to achieve as much vaccination as possible before the new variant reaches our local population. The UK variant has not been determined to be deadlier than the original virus, but it does appear to spread more easily. Because this variant could impact our local population, Ballad Health urges anyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine to take it as soon as possible and as supply is available.
Ballad Health remains poised to continue working with local health departments and health districts to assist as requested. For example, Ballad Health team members currently working at Ballad Health CVCs will be reallocated to assist the Sullivan County Health Department to support their efforts at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Further, in continuing its ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus, Ballad Health still maintains a strong presence in testing, with six drive-through testing sites in the region. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms and believes they might have been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523. Community members can also schedule COVID-19 testing online by visiting www.balladhealth.org or through the Ballad Health mobile app.
For additional information regarding Ballad Health’s COVID-19 efforts, please visit www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.
(IMAGE: Associated Press)