Governor Bullock Releases Updated COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Plan
Lincoln County continues to focus on efficient implementation

By Stacy Bender


Governor’s Release:

Governor Steve Bullock issued a release on Wednesday, December 30, outlining the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution which incorporated new federal recommendations for allocation to critical groups and an estimated timeline for when that might happen across Montana.
“It’s inspiring to see that thousands of health care workers have already been vaccinated and that we are now beginning to reach staff and residents of long-term care facilities,” Governor Bullock said. “As we continue to focus on vaccinating those most vulnerable to this virus, it is incumbent on all of us to keep our friends, neighbors, and loved ones safe as we inch toward the widespread distribution of the vaccine.”

Currently, Montana is working toward the completion of Phase 1a distribution which targeted frontline healthcare workers including staff and residents of long-term care facilities. A total of 16,990 healthcare personnel across Montana have received their first vaccination dose and distribution is now being expanded to include additional healthcare workers with direct patient contact, such as dentists, orthodontists, physical therapists, optometrists, home health workers and others that fit the criteria.
Phase 1b distribution is expected to begin in mid-January and continue through March expanding vaccine accessibility to an additionally estimated 90,000 Montanans such as persons aged 75+ years old, frontline essential workers, those residing in congregate care and correctional facilities, and American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19.

Phase 1c of the state’s distribution plan is expected to launch in mid-March and continue through July to reach another 171,000 Montanans. Critical groups in Phase 1c are those aged 65+ years old, persons aged 16-64 at high risk due to underlying medical conditions, and essential workers.
The final phase, where vaccines are expected to become readily available for all Montanans ages 16 and older, is then expected to launch in late spring or early summer of this year. “It’s important to highlight that expansion to additional groups in Phase 1a and beyond will vary from community to community depending on vaccine availability and how quickly the vaccines are distributed,” said Bekki Wehner of the DPHHS Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau. “As vaccine supplies increase, we’ll be able to allocate them to more and more providers in the coming weeks and months.”

Montana’s distribution plan takes into account a vast amount of feedback and guidance from the over 60-member state COVID-19 Vaccine Coordination Team. Vaccine shipments enter Montana through both state and federal allocations.  6,825 Pfizer and 6,400 Moderna doses were expected to arrive at pharmacies across the state for safe storage by the end of last week. DPHHS has proactively enrolled 200 providers to receive and administer vaccines. Montana will be fully utilizing this network once vaccines become more readily available.
Distribution in Lincoln County Currently underway:

Vaccinations were initialized for health care workers and first responders across Lincoln County just as 2019 came to a close and the New Year began.  The county’s Covid-19 task force has been meeting on a bi-weekly basis to keep abreast of all incoming information on evolving distribution plans and detailed instructions for safe handling once vaccine shipments are received.

The Moderna vaccine, which requires less stringent temperatures for safe storage yet very specific directions for safe handling and administration, was the first to arrive in Lincoln County. Each vial in the initial shipment received contains 10 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Once a vial has been thawed it cannot be refrozen and once punctured must be utilized within a 6-hour period of time.  This creates a critical window in which preparatory facilitation must be planned.

The Covid-19 task force has found themselves planning for everything which might potentially go wrong and navigating forward with hopes that emergency does not arise.  Proper staffing for both distribution and potential emergent care has been thoroughly discussed with critical forethought in order to effectively utilize every dose of vaccine received.

Once each dose of Moderna’s two-part vaccine is administered, recipients must then be closely monitored for potential symptoms in response to the vaccine.  Staff and time must be allotted for 15 – 30 minutes of monitoring depending on a person’s history of having previous issues with vaccines.  Additional staff remain on-call should a need for critical care arise.

As with everything that has presented a challenge for Health Care Professionals since the Covid-19 pandemic began early in 2019, vaccine distribution requires a great deal of time, careful consideration and diligent dedication to remaining flexible and informed in an ever-changing current of guidelines and protocol surrounding the virus.

The current distribution plan for Lincoln County does not sway from the Governor’s recent release and rests tentatively on vaccine availability as time progresses.  Those healthcare professionals and first responders who received their initial dose of the Moderna vaccine continue to be monitored on a weekly basis and are scheduled to receive the second and final dose of vaccine at the end of this month.


For more information:
The DPHHS vaccine FAQ website provides vaccine distribution status updates along with other Montana-specific information. Responses to frequently asked questions across Montana can also be found at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusvaccine.
Montanans are encouraged to utilize reputable information sources regarding COVID-19 vaccine information such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Tis’ The Season for snow friends

Alex Harper, who recently signed with the U.S. Navy and is attending school in Pensacola, Fl, to become an aviation mechanic, contacted his family in Troy this past week to request a Tribble-sighting.
Tribble, his beloved one-year old Holland Lop bunny, played along cooperatively to fulfill the long-distance request.  Though the miniature rabbit seemed to pause in lamentation for a moment or two when he realized his arms were not long enought to reach the carrot he so desired!   Photo by Svetlana Harper


Have a favorite frosty friend or neighbor who you think should be featured, too?  Send us your photos: news@montanian.com