MONTANA — The Governor’s Office announced the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan has been updated to incorporate new federal recommendations.
The updated plan now includes an estimated timeline for vaccine distribution within each phase. Phase 2, in which all Montanans will be eligible to get the vaccine, is estimated to take place late spring to early summer 2021.
The office said nearly 17,000 Montana frontline workers have received the COVID-19 vaccine in the first and current stage, Phase 1a.
The updated plan will also expand Phase 1a to include additional healthcare workers with direct patient contact such as dentists, physical therapists, and more related fields.
The plan states that Phase 1b will begin in mid-January and continue through March. Phase 1b includes an estimated 90,000 Montanans, such as persons aged 75 years or older, frontline essential workers, those residing in congregate care and correctional facilities, and Native Americans and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19.
Phase 1c is expected to launch in mid-March and continue through July and includes another 171,000 Montanans. Critical groups in Phase 1c are those aged 65 years and older, persons aged 16-64 at high risk due to underlying medical conditions, and essential workers.
The final phase is expected to launch in late spring or early summer for all Montanans ages 16 and older.
Implementation of the plan is contingent on vaccine availability, says the Governor’s Office in a press release.
“It’s important to highlight that expansion to additional groups in Phase 1a and phases later on will vary from community to community depending on vaccine availability and how quickly the vaccines are distributed,” says Bekki Wehner, DPHHS Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau. “[The Department of Public Health and Human Services] is working with local health jurisdictions to monitor vaccine supplies around the state to ensure availability for each target group. As vaccine supplies increase, we’ll be able to allocate them to more and more providers in the coming weeks and months.”
As of December 30th, 2020, over 34,000 doses from the state allocation have been sent to 10 Montana hospitals in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. 80 Critical Access Hospitals and Community Health Centers and three Tribal governments chose to receive vaccine from the state allocation.
In addition, the state says vaccinations are beginning this week at many of the 300 long-term care facilities in the state, including both nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This work is being managed through a federal government contract with CVS, Walgreens and Big Sky Managed Care Pharmacy to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccination services. These doses are from the state allocation as well. All these facilities are at various stages of vaccine administration.
Vaccinations are also occurring through the federal allocation to the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Veterans’ Administration. Tribal entities were given the opportunity to either receive their allocation through federal or state channels. This includes tribal governments, Urban Indian Health Centers and IHS sites. In Montana, 5 of 8 tribal governments, all five Urban Indian Health Centers and all the IHS sites chose to get their allocation from the IHS.