All Montanans Age 16 and Older to be Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine on April 1

Gov. Gianforte's new timeline for opening up eligibility is substantially earlier than previously projected

By Micah Drew
Staff prepare COVID-19 vaccines for veterans at the Flathead County Fairgrounds in Kalispell on Feb. 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Montana is making all adults in the state eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting next month, Gov. Greg Gianforte said on a press call Tuesday.

Beginning April 1, all Montanans age 16 and older will qualify for the vaccine, a substantially earlier timeline for opening up eligibility than previously projected.

“Today I’m pleased to announce we’re moving up the timeline,” Gianforte said. “It’s critical that COVID-19 vaccinations are available to every Montanan who wants one.”

The governor previously announced the creation of Phase 1B+, which opened up eligibility beginning March 8 to all Montanans over the age of 60, as well as people ages 16 and older with additional preexisting conditions.

“From the beginning, we’ve focused on the most vulnerable,” Gianforte said. “The next logical step was to make it available to everyone so we can get back to normal.”

The governor emphasized that the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective, stating that he was looking forward to getting the vaccine when his name is called.

Maj. Gen. Matt Quinn, head of the state’s coronavirus task force, said that the Department of Public Health and Human Services will continue to work with counties and local health departments to expand locations where people can get vaccines.

“I would estimate at least by mid May, probably end of May, Montanans that want the vaccine will have the vaccine in their arms,” Quinn said. “That will continue as the vaccine supply continues to go up.”

In Flathead County, all residents interested in getting immunized are asked to add their name to the COVID-19 vaccination list at flatheadhealth.org/vaccine-request-form. Health department employees will be calling those on the list to schedule appointments, although those calls and appointments will likely not come for several weeks.

“We will work hard to vaccinate eligible Montanans, but we ask the community for their continued patience,” Flathead County Health Officer Joe Russell wrote in a press release Tuesday. “If you are interested in receiving a vaccine, please submit an online form and our staff will contact you as soon as vaccine is available.”

Earlier this month, under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, vaccines were made available through private pharmacy partners, part of a nationwide push to increase access to the vaccine for teachers and school staff.

In the Flathead Valley, Albertsons, Walmart, Walgreens, Safeway and Sykes Pharmacy are among those included in the program. To find a participating pharmacy and make an appointment, visit vaccinefinder.org or schedule an appointment directly through a participating pharmacy’s website.

More than 140,000 Montanans are fully immunized and another 82,000 have received a first dose, the governor reported.

“I trust Montanans with their health and the health of their loved ones,” Gianforte said, noting that he had been in Big Sky over the weekend where it was “booming.”

“I want to make it clear to anybody listening, Montana is open for business,” Gianforte continued. “We want folks to come, we’re going to take reasonable precautions to protect our loved ones, our neighbors and our visitors, but let’s start getting back to normal, and this vaccine is going to make that possible for us.”

On March 16, Montana had reported 102,344 total known cases of COVID-19, with 878 active cases. The last time the state’s active caseload was under 900 was in July of last year.

As of Tuesday, Flathead County reported 93 active cases and at least 9,677 fully vaccinated residents, approximately 11.5% of county.

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