Governor Steve Bullock through the Montana Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday that the first rounds of the long-awaited COVID 19 vaccines will arrive next week.

DPHHS Public Information Officer Jon Ebelt provided the first details of the vaccine rollout in Montana.

“Last week we finalized this portion of the vaccine distribution plan with the first allocation going to health care workers in Montana and it will go to 10 of our larger hospitals as this first allocation which will include 9,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will go to those sites,” said Ebelt.

Ebelt said the Pfizer vaccine must be transported and stored under ultra-cold conditions.

“That was one of the requirements from our federal partners was to make sure that with these initial allocations that facilities are set up with ultra-cold storage capability,” he said.  “That's part of our work here at the state level is when we're enrolling partners for this process globally of signing up providers that that's one of the questions that is asked is what is your capability for ultra-cold storage.”

Ebelt identified which groups would be the first to receive the vaccine.

“What we're working off of are recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices,” he said. “They recently came up with their recommendations for this first round, which was healthcare workers and residents and staff of long term care facilities, and then additional recommendations will be coming out as we move forward, but certainly those most at risk but will be included in phase one, including tribal nations and others.”

Ebelt said Montanans must continue to practice the safety protocols that have been put in place until everyone has been vaccinated.

“It's important that we continue to social distance, wear a mask, stay home if you're sick and all those public health prevention measures that we've been talking about for the last nine months,” he said. “We really need to continue those for the next several months because the vaccine allocation and implementation will not be an immediate process. It's going to take several months.”

Ebelt also said both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two separate applications, and each will be several weeks apart. The Moderna vaccine does not require the ultra-cold storage, so it will be sent to smaller, more rural areas.

In western Montana the two hospitals that will receive the vaccines are Providence St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center.

The cities receiving the vaccines first will be Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula.


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