HELENA — Local health agencies held a virtual press conference to discuss the opening of COVID-19 vaccinations to all Montanans aged 16 or older.
Public health officials announced that this Friday, April 2nd, 2021, at 9:00 a.m., all Montanans aged 16 or older can sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Lewis and Clark County Public Health says six weeks of appointments will be available to vaccinate about 7,000 community members. 2,200 doses will be available just next week starting April 6th, 2021.
"This is big news because we've only been able to do really one week at a time. We weren't sure from week to week how much vaccine supply we would be getting,” says Drenda Niemann, Public Health Officer. “To be able to open up six weeks of appointments at a time is really exciting. It means that we will be able to very quickly vaccinate the majority of our population in the next couple of months."
Public health projects that at its current rate of vaccination, 90% of the county’s population will be vaccinated by late July 2021. Pureview will no longer conduct COVID-19 tests at the fairgrounds.
“We are still testing but we've moved our testing to Pureview and it is for Pureview patients,” says Jill Steeley, Pureview CEO. “The reason why we did that and stopped the mass-testing out of the fairgrounds was just to increase capacity of the fairgrounds to do more vaccinations."
Due to limited supply and anticipated demand, pre-registration will be required on the county’s COVID hub.
Health officials emphasized that it is not only the fairgrounds opening vaccination slots. St. Peter's Health, Pureview, Helena Indian Alliance, local pharmacies and more are also opening slots for all Montanans aged 16 or older. Public health says the sooner we reach herd immunity, the sooner we get back to normalcy.
"It's really important that our residents here in Lewis and Clark County make that choice to get vaccinated because that is exactly what we need to happen in order to get back to a place where we can relax back on those public health mitigation strategies we've been using," says Niemann.
People can use https://vaccinefinder.org/ to find pharmacies that offer COVID-19 vaccinations in their area.