State releases plan for initial shipment of COVID-19 vaccine

Gov. Steve Bullock said Dec. 7 that the first round of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be delivered next week and will target healthcare workers at Montana’s major hospitals, including Benefis Health System and the Great Falls Clinic in Great Falls.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is expected to receive about 9,750 first dose allocation of the Pfizer vaccine as soon as Dec. 15, according to a release from Bullock’s office. The federal government requires that the first dose of this vaccine be shipped and delivered directly to facilities with cold storage access.

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Second round doses will be sent to the state in a separate shipment prior to the second dose schedule, which is 21 days apart from the first, according to the release.

As of Dec. 7, Cascade County added 71 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county’s total to 5,569, according to the state map. Of those, 2,492 are currently active, according to the state.

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According to state data, as of Dec. 6, there were 180 non-COVID and 38 COVID-19 patients at Benefis, leaving 22 beds available. Of those, 12 non-COVID and 7 COVID patients are in the ICU, leaving two beds available. Three non-COVID and one COVID patient are on ventilators, leaving 22 available.

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At Great Falls Clinic, 8 non-COVID and 1 COVID patient are hospitalized, leaving 27 beds available.

Great Falls Public Schools had 44 active cases within the district as of Dec. 7.

The state’s vaccination plan is here.

“By prioritizing the vaccination of those on the frontlines, we can help ensure our hospitals can continue serving patients while we continue to manage the spread of this virus in our communities,” Bullock said in a release.

[Get an idea of your place in line for the vaccine with this interactive New York Times tool.]

In a Dec. 7 release, the MFPE union, which represents educators, law enforcement, healthcare workers, and state and local government employees, said that “with Covid-19 cases growing rapidly in Montana, MFPE governance, staff, and members will continue to advocate for increased safety measures for all essential workers and community compliance with state and local health directives and recommendations.  We ask all Montanans to join us in doing so.”

According to Bullock’s office, the first round of vaccines will be provided to the following:

  • Billings Clinic
  • St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings
  • Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital
  • St. James Hospital, Butte
  • Benefis Health System
  • Great Falls Clinic
  • St. Peter’s Health, Helena
  • Kalispell Regional Medical Center
  • Providence St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula
  • Community Medical Center, Missoula

DPHHS will survey Montana hospitals to determine the number of healthcare workers at each and how many doses of the vaccine will go to each location. The Pfizer vaccine contains 975 doses per box, according to Bullock’s office.

“With the requirement of cold storage and the large number of doses per box with the Pfizer vaccine, the plan to allocate the first round to Montana’s large hospitals for their health care workers is the most expedient and best utilizes the resources available,” according to Bullock’s release.

State officials are expecting to receive a second round shipment of vaccines a week after the first round containing both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,” according to Bullock’s release.

“The second round allocation will focus on rural hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. The Moderna vaccine includes 100 doses per box and does not require cold storage, making it more easily delivered to rural settings or small facilities,” according to Bullock’s release.

The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that both health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be offered vaccines in the initial phase and the recommendations are supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Montana is following the ACIP guidelines.

In addition to DPHHS receiving a state allocation, a separate allocation goes to federal organizations such as Indian Health Services and the Veterans’ Administration. The CDC asked Montana tribes to choose whether to receive their allocation from state or federal sources. Pharmacies partnering with the federal government will administer the vaccine in long-term care facilities, according to Bullock’s release.

The state will release details on subsequent rounds of the vaccine as they become available from the federal government, according to the release.