HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte has announced increased COVID-19 vaccine shipments ahead of vaccine eligibility opening for all Montanans 16 and older.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Gianforte said the state will receive about 15,000 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 11,000 first doses of the Moderna vaccine, and 15,600 doses of the Johnson and Johnson single-shot vaccine – along with about 25,000 second doses. He said their federal allocation is up by about 15,000 doses from last week.
Gianforte touted the continuing lower rates of new COVID cases and hospitalizations in Montana, and said vaccines have been a key part of that.
“Getting the vaccine will help us get back to a normal life,” he said. “These vaccines are saving lives, minimizing hospitalizations and slowing the spread of the virus. We’ve seen that in the data.”
Earlier this month, Gianforte directed everyone 16 and up would be eligible for the vaccine starting April 1. On Wednesday, state leaders said most local providers are ready to meet that new demand, and many have already started opening availability to that population. However, they said supply will still be an issue.
“Like our other phases, vaccine won’t be available in all of these jurisdictions on Day One,” said Bekki Kirsch-Wehner, chief of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau. “Just because it’s opening tomorrow, you may not be able to get a vaccine appointment tomorrow. But as vaccines are coming more into the state – more than we’ve ever seen before – we expect it to go a lot more quickly than the previous phases.”
Gianforte also issued a directive Tuesday aimed at making it easier for pharmacies to administer vaccines. It temporarily authorized pharmacists to use any qualified health care provider to administer vaccines and waived a restriction on how many pharmacy technicians a pharmacist can supervise for assisting with vaccinations.
Gianforte announced that he will receive his own first vaccine dose in Lewis and Clark County on Thursday.
“I’m glad my name has finally come up on the list, and I look forward to getting a vaccine,” he said.
He directed Montanans to several online resources where they can learn more about the vaccines. You can go to covidvaccine.mt.gov to find out how to get a vaccine in your community. You can also visit vaccinefinder.org to see if you have nearby pharmacies that may offer vaccines.