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Ballad Health expands COVID-19 vaccine availability

JOHNSON CITY — Ballad Health is furthering efforts to make novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines widely accessible and available in the Appalachian Highlands by enhancing the hours of its community vaccination centers (CVCs) and extending eligibility guidelines.
 
Ballad Health’s CVC in Kingsport is now open from 2-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-noon on Fridays, and the Elizabethton CVC is open from 3-8 p.m. Monday-Friday. The health system’s Virginia center will maintain its established operating hours, and all CVCs require appointments.
 
Additionally, as of Wednesday, April 7, its Virginia CVC is open to all community members over the age of 16 — regardless of contributing health conditions — bringing vaccine centers in the Commonwealth in-step with their Tennessee counterparts.  
 
Community members can schedule vaccine appointments by calling Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523. Online scheduling for eligible patients is also available on the health system’s main webpage at www.balladhealth.org and its COVID-19 page at www.balladhealth.org/COVID19, as well as the Ballad Health mobile app on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets.
 
“Vaccines are the surest way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have to be open and available to people in all walks and roles of life,” said Jamie Swift, Ballad Health’s chief infection prevention officer. “For many people, limiting vaccine appointment times to daytime hours, when they’re working or otherwise unavailable, makes this potentially lifesaving shot inaccessible — and our goal is to make the vaccine easy to receive and the process as convenient as possible.  
 
“With COVID-19 cases rising again regionally and nationally, we have to make vaccines equally available to everyone and encourage all eligible community members to get theirs as quickly as possible. Getting shots in arms is crucial if we’re to stave off another surge.”
 
Swift also cited Ballad Health’s recent Super Saturday event, which was held on March 27, as an impetus behind its extended vaccine center hours. During the event, Ballad Health’s CVCs provided nearly 900 first-dose COVID-19 vaccines in a five-hour timeframe, despite severe storms across the Appalachian Highlands that prevented many people from traveling.
 
“Overwhelmingly, the people who attended Super Saturday were newly eligible for the vaccine or in professions that don’t afford a lot of free time during the day,” she said. “We’re encouraged there was such interest from these groups — our Elizabethton vaccine center saw people arrive at 5 a.m. for shots, and we had 100 patients in that first hour — and we’re going to do all we can to keep up the momentum and ensure everyone can get their shot.”
 
Community members must bring a photo ID when they arrive for their vaccine, and healthcare workers should bring their work ID badge. Second doses will be scheduled when patients check in, and everyone must be observed for at least 15 minutes after receiving the shot to monitor for any possible side effects. Sixteen- and 17-year olds must have a parent or guardian with them at all Ballad Health CVCs.
 
To date, Ballad Health has provided more than 39,000 first-dose and 33,000 second-dose vaccines to eligible people in the Appalachian Highlands.
 
Additionally, in continuing its ongoing fight against COVID-19, 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.
 
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.
 
Furthermore, Ballad Health recently announced its Center for Post-COVID Care, which creates an access point to comprehensive clinical care for patients who are struggling with post-COVID symptoms. Currently in its initial phase, the center operates as a virtual care model where a navigator is assigned to patients with long-term symptoms and coordinates between primary and specialty care providers across a range of services, including pulmonary rehabilitation, behavioral health, cardiovascular care and support groups.
 
To seek care with the Ballad Health Center for Post-COVID Care or to learn more, patients and referring providers can call 423-952-2183 or email postcovid@balladhealth.org.
 
COVID-19 news and updates will continue to be shared to www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.

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