JOHNSON CITY (Jan. 9, 2023) – With just under half of Tennesseans not yet fully vaccinated against COVID-19, East Tennessee State University will soon provide new opportunities for the vaccine to be available at clinics in rural communities as well as a new mobile vaccination unit.
The initiative is being made possible through a $1.3 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Health awarded to ETSU’s College of Nursing and Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy. The goal of the grant is to reach patients in socially vulnerable areas of Northeast Tennessee.
“The majority of individuals served by our ETSU Health College of Nursing practice sites are uninsured and underserved,” said Dr. Kayla Norman, clinical director of the ETSU Health nursing practice network. “Specifically, our patients often struggle with transportation and the financial resources needed to participate in preventative care. The grant will provide our patients with a greater opportunity to receive the much-needed vaccine at no cost to them.”
Norman said the vaccine will be available at all of the college’s practice sites, including the ETSU Health Johnson City Community Health Center, University Health Center and Johnson City Downtown Day Center, all in Johnson City; the Hancock County School-Based Health Centers in Sneedville; and the Mountain City Extended Hours Health Center.
A mobile site will target clinics in the counties of Hamblen, Unicoi, Hancock, Hawkins, Carter, Johnson, Greene, Sullivan and Washington.
Dr. Michelle Rapier, a Pharmacy Practice research fellow at Gatton College of Pharmacy, anticipates this new grant will improve opportunities to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by removing certain barriers.
“We will bring the vaccine closer to people,” Rapier said. “Our mobile team will not ask for insurance, and clients do not need to have a primary care provider to receive the vaccine at a mobile clinic. We will also provide education and marketing about the COVID vaccines in order to help people reduce their risk of becoming very sick or hospitalized with COVID-19.”
The new initiative will provide important training opportunities for pharmacy students.
“The program will enhance the educational opportunities for ETSU pharmacy students by allowing them to not only practice skills related to vaccination, but also to get to know patients and each community and to foster preventative health,” Rapier said. “Our students will be involved in all aspects of the mobile clinics and will provide them with the opportunity to provide care in settings outside of the traditional pharmacy rotations in order to expand care and to ensure equitable care to patients in Northeast Tennessee.”