Health Department to Host Vaccination Clinics at Breweries

County striving to boost vaccination rate with alternative locations, times and extra incentive of a free beer with the shot

By Micah Drew
Bias Brewing in Kalispell. Beacon file photo

The Flathead City-County Health Department is partnering with Bias Brewing and Backslope Brewing to host two free walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics for adults 18 and older this month.

“We wanted to partner with local health experts, community leaders, and businesses to provide vaccines and information at alternative locations and times of day to help make vaccines more accessible to all,” Gabe Mariman of Bias Brewing said in a press release. “As a community we are trending behind the national vaccination average and that puts our community and economy at risk. We hope that providing these alternative locations and time slots will allow our region to vaccinate at a rate that will protect our neighbors, loved ones, and our Montana way of life.”

On Wednesday, June 9, Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls will host the clinic from 2 to 6 p.m., followed by Bias Brewing hosting a clinic on Thursday, June 10 in Kalispell from 4 to 8 p.m. Individuals 21 years of age and older who receive a vaccine at either clinic can receive one free beer.

“Providing vaccination events at local businesses will offer our community members the opportunity to get their COVID-19 shot in a low-key, fun environment with a trusted network of friends, healthcare providers, and business owners,” Erica Lengacher, an intensive-care unit nurse in Kalispell who has worked COVID units and vaccine clinics, said. “We are hoping that those who have been hesitant about getting vaccinated or haven’t been able to fit it into their schedule will come with questions and are ready to enjoy some local food and brew!”

As of May 21, just 31.7% of eligible Flathead County residents were fully immunized against COVID-19 and 38.2% had received a first dose. Those numbers are well below statewide and national averages, and considerably short of the types of percentages that health officials say would offer the community broad protection from the virus.

Flathead County Health Officer Joe Russell told the Beacon last month that he hopes the county will reach a 40% vaccine rate, which is far below the 70 to 80% believed to be needed to create widespread protection from the pathogen that has stalled normal life.

Cities, states and other jurisdictions across the country have turned to incentives as a way to boost vaccination rates to the federal goal of 70%. Among the promotional efforts underway nationwide is a pledge by Anheuser-Busch to “buy Americans 21+ a round of beer” once the 70% threshold is met, Krispy Kreme offering a free donut to any adult with a vaccination card, CVS launching a sweepstakes with prizes including free cruises and Super Bowl tickets, and various states offering rewards ranging from free fishing licenses to lottery-style monetary prizes or scholarships.

Montana does not currently have a state incentive program, but some other cities have similar programs to the beer giveaway in Flathead County, while the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have teamed up with S&K Gaming to raffle cash and gift cards.

Any local businesses that are interested in hosting a pop-up vaccine clinic may contact Joe Russell at the Health Department at (406) 751-8155.

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