By Meg Dickens
COVID-19 has been a hot topic of discussion for more than a year now. Many debate how dangerous it is, what safety precautions are necessary, and if vaccinations are safe. Groups argue for both sides, but, if surplus vaccine numbers are any indicator, locals within the age-based phase groups are not getting vaccinated as often as officials expected. Vaccines will not go to waste though.
Now Tennessee and neighboring states are opening up vaccinations to people regardless of groups, making stages a thing of the past. As of Monday, April 5, the Tennessee Department of Health declared that anyone 16 or older can get vaccinated at will. This allows those who want to be vaccinated to do so and avoid wasting salient doses.
Although COVID-19 numbers seem lower, both Public Health Educator Angie Stout and Regional Health Department Director Dr. David Kirschke warn that this does not mean the danger has passed. Stout pointed out that the decrease could simply be caused by lowered testing rates. Dr. Kirschke also explained that a variety of strains have been found within surrounding areas.
“COVID variants have been documented in Tennessee, including in the Northeast region,” said Kirschke. “It is likely that they are spreading more widely than we currently have the ability to detect.”
In Johnson County, several businesses have started facilitating vaccinations. To name a few, Walgreens and Mountain City Pharmacy started offering vaccinations on certain days within the last few weeks. The Johnson County Health Department announced it would start vaccinating people 18 or older and, those who are 16 or 17 years old, could register for a Pfizer vaccination at the next nearest site. The health department’s next vaccination day will be on Wednesday, April 7 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 165 Industrial Park Rd in Mountain City, TN. Locally, almost all providers are supplying the Moderna vaccine.
President Biden’s Save Lives Act, passed in mid-March, now makes it possible for Veteran Affairs (VA) offices nationwide to provide vaccinations as well. This means that veterans, veteran families, and caregivers can get access to their normal VA office. Check with your local VA to confirm availability.
At the time of this article, Johnson County has 24 reported, active cases of COVID-19 according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Three of these are within the Johnson County School System. View data from the school system on its COVID Dashboard. To find the closest site with vaccines available, visit vaccinefinder.org. To keep up to date on COVID-19 case information, visit tn.gov/health.