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Ballad’s vaccination drive boosts efforts to make vaccine available, accessible

Photo by Richard Rourk • Leslie Hughes, Loveland Hobson, Holly Rinehart and Charlie Roberts are shown during the recent vaccination drive sponsored by Ballad Health at Unicoi County Hospital.

By Richard Rourk

Ballad Health held a vaccination drive recently in Unicoi County in an effort to help people living in the region become more resistant to COVID-19 one jab at a time.

The healthcare network has furthered efforts to make COVID-19 vaccines widely accessible and available in the Appalachian Highlands. The recent effort involved offering a family vaccination day event on Saturday, June 5, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Unicoi County Hospital. 

“We saw 21 people total that day,” Ballad Health Media Specialist Ashlea Ramey told The Erwin Record. 

The vaccines are now available for all community members age 12 and older. 

“We actually had one local female, Delilah Tallman, who’s 16, and had just gotten her driver’s license and drove her mom there for the event,” Ramey said.

Ballad Health Assistant Vice President and Unicoi County Hospital Administrator Loveland Hobson was happy to see the event come to Unicoi County. 

“We are extremely excited to be able to offer this event to Unicoi County and its surrounding communities,” Hobson said. “Vaccines are the surest way through the COVID-19 pandemic – and our goal is to make the shots easy to receive and the process as convenient as possible.”

Hobson also thanked Ballad’s dedicated team members and the families who took part in the family vaccination event at Unicoi County Hospital. 

“We appreciate your commitment to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hobson said. “Every vaccine given brings us one step closer to protecting the communities we love.”

When Hobson assumed her role with Unicoi County Hospital last month, she announced a focus on extending the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network throughout Unicoi County, bolstering maternity care and early childhood development care in the region. The family vaccination event is a step forward in those plans, as Ballad Health’s vaccination efforts were developed with input from the children’s network’s pediatric experts. As a result, all Ballad Health CVCs and vaccination events are well-prepared for pediatric vaccine patients, and child life specialists will be onsite to ensure a child-friendly environment, with smaller syringes and distraction items on hand.

 “I’m a pediatrician – and I’m also a mother,” said Ballad Health Chief Medical Officer for Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Ballad Health’s Vice President of Pediatric Services Dr. Patricia Chambers. “The health and safety of children is my number one priority, and I’m wholly confident in the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines – they’re key to protecting our children and communities from COVID-19.”

 Ballad Health also operates a CVC in the Mall at Johnson City, which is open Monday-Friday from 2-7 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, and online scheduling for eligible patients is also available on the health system’s main webpage and its COVID-19 page, as well as the Ballad Health mobile app on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. 

 To date, Ballad Health has provided more than 43,000 first-dose and 41,000 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. All Ballad Health testing sites offer same-day results.

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, visit www.balladhealth.org or email [email protected] COVID-19 news and updates will continue to be shared through www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.