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COVID vaccine is on its way — what does that mean for Montana's timeline?

Pfizer vaccine
Posted at 8:57 PM, Dec 13, 2020

GREAT FALLS — The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA and recommended by the CDC for anyone over the age of 16.

The first wave of deliveries are on their way, but what does that mean for the vaccine timeline in Montana?

Last week, Great Falls Clinic Infection Preventionist Heidi LePard told MTN that, although the Clinic’s vaccine preparations were well underway, there was still a lot of information that Montana’s hospitals were waiting to hear from state and federal officials.

“It is like planning a wedding,” LePard said in a statement. “But you don’t know who is getting married, if they are getting married, when they are getting married, or how many guests are coming.”

Now that the FDA has approved an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine, some of those questions have answers.

FedEx and UPS are teaming up to deliver the first round of Pfizer vaccines across the country, a rare partnership for a good cause.

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the companies are using a “very tightly controlled system” to deliver the doses to the 636 sites that governors have designated for this initial shipment.

COVID vaccine is on its way — what does that mean for Montana's timeline?

We know from earlier this month that Montana is slated to receive 9,750 Pfizer vaccines at first, which will be divided amongst 10 hospitals throughout the state. UPS and FedEx say some of the shipments will arrive within one day, while the rest will arrive the next day. That means health care workers could be getting shots by Monday.

Benefis Health System in Great Falls is one of the 10 hospitals that will receive part of the initial shipment. A representative told MTN last week that the hospital would be ready whenever the vaccines arrive.

“We should be ready pretty quickly when we get them,” said Benefis VP of Communication and Business Development Kaci Husted. “Probably the day we get them or the following day we’re hoping.”

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services estimated that the state will be in the “Limited Supply” Phase of vaccine distribution for about two months. After that, the vaccines are expected to become more widely available, though the exact timeline for that is still unknown.