Appointments for Phase 1b COVID-19 vaccines open Jan. 21

Beginning 9 a.m. Jan. 21, locals in the 1b phase of the state vaccination plan will be able to make appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Appointments must be scheduled online here. The scheduling section on that page will not be live until 9 a.m. Thursday.

If you do not have access to a computer, call 406-455-2500 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 21. You will be required to provide a valid email address to book your appointment, regardless of whether you schedule online or via phone, according to a release from Benefis Health System.

COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in Cascade County; health board meets again Jan. 20 to review restrictions; 19 more COVID-19 deaths in county

On Jan. 21, Benefis, the Cascade County-City County Health Department, the Great Falls Clinic and Alluvion Health are opening 1,500 slots for vaccines to be scheduled.

Under the state plan, Phase 1b includes anyone over 70 and those who meet certain health criteria, but due to the number of county residents who fall into that category exceeds the available vaccine supply, “we are limiting vaccine administration to only those who are age 70 and older at this time,” according to the Benefis release.

All of the local healthcare agencies are asking that members of the public refrain from calling them and trying to get appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. All local healthcare agencies told local media today that they are being inundated with phone calls from people looking to schedule appointments ahead of the Jan. 21 opening or who are trying to get doctors to write them notes for the vaccine despite being outside the current age bracket for the next phase of the vaccination plan.

“There will be no exceptions to this age rule due to limited vaccine supply. If you are not able to get an appointment when the portal opens on Thursday, do not show up at these agencies or call your doctor to see if they can get you in” according to a release from CCHD.

“At this time, only people who are age 70+ can receive the vaccine because our county’s supply is currently very limited. Individuals in this age group will only be able to receive the vaccine at the upcoming joint vaccination clinics at the Montana ExpoPark–not from their doctor or at other upcoming health care appointments. We know that there are many people in Cascade County who are age 16-69 with health conditions that qualify them for vaccination in tier 1B. We are working very hard to make sure that you get vaccinated as soon as possible! However, at this time, we are starting with individuals who are 70 or older, and we will not be able to make exceptions due to limited supply. This policy was developed in consultation with the State and is the same at CCHD, Benefis, Alluvion, and Great Falls Clinic, without exceptions.”

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Slots will be available for appointments on Jan. 25, Jan. 27 and Jan. 29 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will be filled on a first-come first-served basis.

Vaccinations will take place at Montana ExpoPark’s Family Living Center, 400 3rd St. N.W.

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Residents must preschedule an appointment to receive the vaccine and must present identification at the appointment. If the identification indicates a person is not 70 or older, they will be turned away, according to the release. If you do not arrive as scheduled for either your first or second dose appointment, your appointment will not be automatically rescheduled.

The vaccine consists of two doses. “You will be scheduled for your second dose at the time your first dose is administered. Second doses will occur three to five weeks after first doses, so please anticipate your future availability when scheduling your first dose. You will not be permitted to schedule your second vaccine dose online yourself” according to the release.

Cascade County will maintain Bullock’s COVID-19 restrictions

Local health officials expect it to take four weeks to administer the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone who falls in the Phase 1b category and future dates, times and number of available slots will be released as they are available.

On Jan. 18, the county added seven new cases, bringing the county’s total to 7,158. Of those, 583 are currently active, according to the state map.