Next round of Phase 1b vaccination appointments opens Jan. 28

The 1,500 appointments for COVID-19 vaccines filled up within 15 minutes this morning, leaving many people frustrated and without an appointment.

The next round of signups for appointment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 28, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department.

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

CCHD officials said they weren’t sure yet how many appointments would be available in that round and to watch for updates.

That signup will be for appointments on Feb. 1, Feb. 3 and Feb. 5.

To sign up, go to beginning at 9 a.m. Jan. 28.

“We know many people were disappointed they weren’t able to secure a COVID-19 vaccination appointment this morning. Please know we are working to provide vaccines as they allocated from the state. We ask you to be patient as supply is limited and enthusiasm is high. We’re inspired by the number of people wanting the vaccine, which is a crucial step in overcoming the pandemic,” according to CCHD.

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The online scheduling tool did function properly, according to CCHD, but there were far more people on trying to make appointments than there were slots available.

Per CCHD, Benefis, Alluvion and Great Falls Clinic, no employees of those agencies were given any early access to the signup their family or friends.

To register complaints about the process, CCHD encourages people to send them to versus calling Benefis Health System, Great Falls Clinic or Alluvion Health to leave those lines available for people with health concerns.

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The Phase 1b vaccination rollout plan in Cascade County was developed jointly by officials from CCHD, Benefis, GFC and Alluvion.

There is currently no waiting list for the vaccine in Phase 1b.

CCHD officials told The Electric that there are at least 16,000 people in the county with health conditions eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1b and at least 10,000 people over the age of 70 in the county. They aren’t sure how much overlap there is between those two groups and have estimated that it will take several weeks to administer the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone who falls in the Phase 1b category.

On Jan. 21, Cascade County added 16 new cases, bringing the total to 7,196. Of those, 561 are active, according to the state map.

If you do not have access to a computer, call 406-455-2500 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 28. 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.

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

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.