HELENA — Lewis and Clark County is expected to begin Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccinations next week. On Monday, Lewis and Clark Public Health (LCPH) was working out the final details for how the next phase of vaccination distribution in the county will initially operate.
Last week, Gov. Gianforte changed the State’s Phase 1B vaccination strategy. The phase was expanded to include anyone over the age of 70 and those 16 or older with a health condition that makes them at risk for serious complications from the virus. Teachers, first responders and other critical workers had been in Phase 1B but have since been moved to Phase 1C.
Phase 1B is expected to encompass around 13,000 individuals in Lewis and Clark County.
In order to avoid complications with vaccination roll out, the county is looking at having a pre-registration system for upcoming clinics.
“We’re limited by supply so if I know for example that I can only give 400 shots in one clinic it would be irresponsible of us to invite 8,000 people to that clinic,” said Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Brett Lloyd. ”First come first serve is not equitable and it’s not one of those things where logistically it would be a good idea.”
Another benefit of using a pre-registration site or software is it will help LCPH better manage many different groups for their second shot for two different vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines also have very different storage, handling and time between doses requirements that will make organizing clinics more difficult.
LCPH is anticipating a large number of people wanting to get their COVID vaccination as soon as possible in the next phase.
“They are the ones most vulnerable to the disease and there is a large segment of them that absolutely want to get this vaccine as soon as possible,” said Lloyd. “Our goal is to do that but we have to do that in an orderly way.”
Lewis and Clark County is anticipating receiving an increased number of doses in the coming weeks, but believe it will need to be a lot more in order to adequately meet the demand.
LCPH have also done a close review of their traffic flow for the clinic to ensure there is no overspill on the neighboring streets.
Lloyd wants to make it clear the vaccination plan is tentative and always subject to change when things need to be improved upon. However, he recognizes that no matter what it will inevitably not be a perfect fit for every person and hopes people are understanding.
“It’s a living document and it’s a living process. We’re fully expecting to have to adapt and change on the fly every week,” said Lloyd. “I try to take it one week at a time because when you look at what we’re trying to accomplish it’s a pretty daunting task.”
LCPH will continue to use the fairgrounds for vaccination purposes for the foreseeable future, but also intend to add more vaccination site and provide vaccination opportunities for Lincoln and Augusta.