Montana AARP Vaccine Distribution Plan – update 1-26-2021

The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in Montana

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  • En español | Montana is administering COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna to residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities and to health care personnel, who make up Phase 1a of the state’s vaccine distribution plan.
  • Montanans age 70 and over are included in Phase 1b of the vaccination plan, which is underway. People in this group can contact their local or tribal health department for information on scheduling a shot. Adults age 60 and over are in the next phase, 1c.

When can older adults get the vaccine?

EMT's and Frontline Healthcare Workers Receive Covid Vaccination In Montana
A health care worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Livingston

About 206,000 people age 65 and older live in Montana, making up nearly a fifth of the state’s residents. The state’s 70-plus population is now vaccine-eligible.

The state’s vaccine plan has tiered priority groups. Tracking with guidance from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel, the ongoing initial phase, 1a, covers high-risk health care workers — those who work in frontline positions or have direct patient contact — and residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

Phase 1b began in mid-January and is expected to take several months to complete, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. This phase includes:

  • Montanans age 70 and over;
  • those ages 16 to 69 with underlying health conditions that put them at the highest risk for serious complications from COVID-19; and
  • Native Americans and other people of color at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.

People age 60 and are over are in Montana’s Phase 1c, which will also cover:

  • frontline essential workers such as first responders, teachers, transit workers, grocery store staff, and employees in food, agriculture and manufacturing, among others;
  • those ages 16 to 59 with medical conditions that put them at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications; and
  • people living in group care homes and corrections facilities.

The health department estimates that Phase 1c will begin in mid- to late spring. Phase 2, encompassing Montanans age 16 and older who were not vaccinated during Phase 1, is slated to start by late summer.

AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has shown that older people are at higher risk of death.

How do I know when I’m able to get a vaccine?

AARP recommends that you talk to your doctor about the safety, effectiveness, benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

The state health department says it will “communicate with the public through the news media, social media and other forms” as the state moves through its phases, and it plans to do additional outreach through county and tribal health departments and providers such as hospitals, pharmacies and community clinics. You can check the state’s vaccine information page for updates or contact your local or tribal health agency.

Where can I get a vaccine? 

Vaccines are available to staff and residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities via on-site clinics run by pharmacy chains. For the broader population, hospitals, community health centers, local and tribal health agencies, and pharmacies will serve as the main administration sites.

Check the state health department’s vaccine availability site or contact your county or tribal health agency for information on availability.

I’ve heard that some vaccines require a second shot.

The initial COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these vaccines, you’ll need a follow-up dose a few weeks later to be effectively immunized. While a single dose provides some protection, “you get optimal immunity” only by receiving both doses, says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

After getting their first shot, Montanans should receive a vaccination card showing the type of vaccine administered and the date for the second scheduled dose, according to the state health department. Patients might also get an electronic notification from their vaccine provider’s electronic health records system when their second dose is available.

The CDC has launched a web tool called v-safe that lets you sign up for text message reminders for your second vaccine appointment and report possible side effects.

How will nursing home and other long-term care residents get the vaccine?

The federal government has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer the COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to long-term care residents and staff at their facilities. Montana is taking part in the federal program and is also working with a third partner, Big Sky Managed Care, a Great Falls-based company that provides pharmacy services for assisted living facilities, group homes and mental health patients.

The three companies are operating on-site clinics at long-term care facilities to administer COVID-19 shots. All facilities are expected to have received first doses by the end of January.

Do I have to pay for the vaccination?

AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. However, the CDC says vaccine providers may still charge a fee for giving someone a shot. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said the vaccine will be administered free to Medicare beneficiaries with no copays. Some health insurance companies also have announced no out-of-pocket costs for policyholders.

There are already reports of scammers purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated?

Yes. Experts still need to learn more about the protection the vaccines provide under “real-life conditions,” the CDC says. It could take your body a few weeks to build up immunity after the second dose of a vaccine. And while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19, it’s not yet clear whether someone who has been vaccinated still can catch the virus and transmit it to others.

The vaccine is just one tool that can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC says it could take months for the population to build up immunity, and it continues to recommend preventive measures such as face masks and social distancing.

AARP has also called for ongoing monitoring of vaccines, once they are authorized for public use, to identify any risks that weren’t evident in the expedited development and review process.

This guide was originally published on Jan. 7. It was most recently updated on Jan. 26 with new information on Montana’s vaccine allocation timetable.

Also of Interest:

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