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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Ballad Health begins providing COVID-19 vaccines to adolescents ages 12 to 15, will continue working to make shots accessible

Ballad Health will immediately begin providing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines to all community members ages 12 to 15, following recent federal approval that extends vaccine eligibility.

The health system’s community vaccination centers (CVCs) in Kingsport and Johnson City are open and accepting walk-in vaccine patients until 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12. All Ballad Health CVCs – including the clinics in Norton and Abingdon, Virginia – will open again on Thursday, May 13, for all patients ages 12 and older

The shots have undergone rigorous testing and evaluation and received emergency use authorization by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approval by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and final guidance and recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ballad Health, as it has with all COVID-19 vaccine progress and availability, has followed full guidance by federal and regulatory agencies.

“We’ve been energized and encouraged by the level of interest from our community members about these vaccines for children ages 12 to 15,” said Jamie Swift, Ballad Health’s chief infection prevention officer. “We’ve seen, from the shots we’ve provided to people age 16 and older so far, that these vaccines are safe and effective, and so we’re excited to be able to offer them to more of our community members.”

Swift noted the 12 to 15 age demographic is especially crucial to community vaccination efforts, as COVID-19 cases among children and teenagers 10 to 19 have represented the highest percentage of new cases in the region. Additionally, the percentage of new cases represented by school-aged children continues to be well above the region’s previous baseline and continues to increase.

Additionally, through the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network, Ballad Health’s CVCs are well-prepared for pediatric vaccine patients. Swift said the centers have been planning for approval for several weeks and worked with the child life specialists to ensure the CVCs are a child-friendly environment, with smaller syringes and distraction items on hand.

The health system is also exploring options to extend vaccine access farther into the region, and it will share plans for mobile vaccine clinics, school partnerships and other programs as they’re finalized.

“As a pediatrician, I’m a strong proponent of vaccinations. And as a mother, concern for my children’s health and safety is my No. 1 priority,” said Dr. Patricia Chambers, chief medical officer for Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Ballad Health’s vice president of pediatric services. “I’m wholly confident in the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines – they’re key to protecting our children and communities from COVID-19.”

Walk-ins are welcome at all Ballad Health CVCs, and community members can also schedule appointments by calling Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523. Online scheduling for eligible patients is also available on the COVID-19 page.

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. Children and teenagers from 12 to 17 years old must have a parent or guardian with them at all Ballad Health CVCs.

To date, Ballad Health has provided more than 42,000 first-dose and 40,000 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 COVID-19 page 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 or email