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Governor: Montana is ready to increase COVID vaccinations, but needs more supply

Moderna Vaccine
Posted at 8:14 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-23 20:30:27-05

HELENA — Governor Greg Gianforte said Friday that Montana has made progress getting people vaccinated for COVID-19, but that they’re still hoping for more supply from the federal level. “We want to do more, and we can do more,” he said during a news conference. “We are ready and prepared to administer more vaccinations. We just need more doses.”

Gianforte said about 73,000 doses of COVID vaccines have already been administered across the state, and 14,000 Montanans have received both doses to be fully immunized.

Most frontline health care workers have received their first dose of the vaccine, and the state has started “Phase 1B” of its vaccination plan – where doses are available to those 70 and older and people with underlying health conditions.

“That we are in Phase 1B of our vaccine distribution is great news,” Gianforte said. “Unfortunately, not everyone in Phase 1B can get vaccinated as quickly as we would like.”

Gianforte said federal leaders have promised to provide Montana at least 13,000 new first doses each week, but that they hope that number will soon increase.

Gov. Gianforte gives latest COVID-19 press conference

Gen. Matthew Quinn, executive director of the governor’s COVID-19 task force, said all but one county in Montana has shifted into Phase 1B. In addition, Gianforte said people in almost all long-term care facilities in the state will have received their first dose by the end of January, and about 13% of tribal communities have been vaccinated.

State leaders said vaccine “uptake” – the percentage of eligible people choosing to get vaccinated – has been strong. They estimated 75% to 80% of health care workers and around 50% of the general population is currently opting for the vaccine. Gianforte said they expect that number to increase as more people receive the shot and don’t experience any serious side effects.

“I think as confidence builds, uptake will increase,” he said.

Gianforte said he’s pleased that the state’s hospitalization rate has gone down, as has the average daily number of new COVID cases. However, he asked Montanans to continue taking precautions like wearing masks. “We are making great strides to save lives,” he said. “The light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter. But as I said before, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Also during his news conference, Gianforte thanked local and national law enforcement for helping maintain the peace in the days and weeks after the January 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol. He credited agencies like the Montana Highway Patrol, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Helena Police Department and the University of Montana Police Department.

“Thanks to them, all was quiet and peaceful in Helena and our state Capitol this past week,” he said.