Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Henry Netherland
Pathfinder 

County enters Phase 1b vaccine distribution

 

February 4, 2021



MISSOULA COUNTY - By the end of January, Missoula County shifted into the first tier for Phase 1b vaccine distribution.

Tier one of Phase 1b includes county residents ages 70 and older, Native Americans and other people of color. Following these groups, appointments will be opened to younger individuals who meet other eligibility criteria under this Phase. Due to high demand and limited doses, Phase 1b appointments will open with a tiered approach as required by the Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD).

Those without Internet access can schedule an appointment by calling 406-258-INFO (4636). Staff can answer questions and assist people in signing up for clinics or vaccinations at providers.

Appointments are expected to book up quickly so the public is encouraged to check http://covid19.missoula.co/VaccineInformation for appointments weekly. Appointments will open to county residents only on a week-by-week basis as vaccine allocations allow.

Most primary care providers with access to the vaccine are reaching out to their existing patient base to inform them of their eligibility and to schedule an appointment. Residents are advised to refrain from calling their providers or local hospitals directly.

Not all primary care providers in Missoula County will be able to distribute the vaccine. Those whose providers do not have the vaccine will likely need to get it at public clinics hosted by the University of Montana and/or the MCCHD.

To see which primary care providers are reaching out to patients to schedule appointments visit covid19.missoula.co. The Vaccine Information section of the site includes information about current eligibility at each facility and details on how to make an appointment.

Clinics are free regardless of health insurance. However, those with insurance are encouraged to bring their card where their insurance will be billed an administrative fee to help cover costs associated with the clinics. This will not result in out-of-pocket costs to insured people.

For the foreseeable future, Missoula County will receive 1,500 first doses per week that will be divided among more than 25 providers. This is based on the state’s entire allocation of approximately 13,000 first doses.

The County has almost 40,000 people expecting to receive the vaccine in Phase 1b.

According to the Health Department, the vaccine scarcity is not unique to Missoula County or Montana but nationwide. In the meantime health department leaders encourage residents to continue taking standard precautions against spreading the virus including masking, social distancing, washing hands and limiting social circles.

The Missoula County COVID-19 Vaccine Coordination Team organized their first public vaccination clinic on Sunday, Jan. 31 at University of Montana. All 400 slots were booked within an hour after sign-up was available. All 210 appointments for MCCHD’s Southgate Mall clinic on Thursday, Jan. 28 were also filled in roughly two hours.

The Missoula County COVID-19 Vaccine Coordination Team acts as an umbrella organization to coordinate vaccine administration among its 26 registered vaccine providers. MCCHD is a provider but is not directly overseeing the overall coordination effort.

Every provider receives its doses through the state. There is no local distributing agency. Many smaller-volume providers, including pharmacies, have not received any vaccine doses to date.

Eric Halverson, Partnership Health Center (PHC) communications and development administrator, said he is unable to provide an exact timeline as to when PHC will begin taking vaccine appointments because it is dependent on how many doses they are allocated. They serve approximately 15,000 individuals annually and regularly submit vaccine quantity requests to the Department of Public Health & Human Services to see how many they will receive on a weekly basis.

The desired outcome of the vaccination plan is to establish herd immunity, which experts estimate will be achieved when more than 70% of the population is fully vaccinated. In Missoula County, that equates to about 70,000 people. According to the Health Department, once herd immunity is achieved, the community should be able to safely resume pre-pandemic activities.

More information on how to sign up for the vaccines can be found on http://covid19.missoula.co/VaccineInformation, http://missoulainfo.com and MCCHD’s Facebook page.

To follow the County’s current vaccination status, look at the frequently updated Missoula County Vaccine Distribution Dashboard at https://missoulapartnership.us15.list-manage.com/track/click?u=fb7a6b5e85a30a3f2bbb79cf6&id=c16aa96cea&e=7c0c66d758.

 

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