HAVRE — Doses of the Moderna vaccine took flight early Thursday from Helena to Havre, and scores of military veterans were standing by for their first dose.
The Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) was recently chosen to lead a national VHA pilot program to bring vaccines to veterans in rural areas, and on Thursday morning, a vaccination team flew doses of the Moderna vaccine in special plug-in coolers from Fort Harrison’s ultracold on-site freezer to Havre.
“I’m on a high susceptible rate, it came out, and I came out to get it. I don’t want to be one of those 400,000,” said William Trainor about why getting vaccinated was important to him. As for the shot itself, Trainor says it was a breeze, “It’s a lot better than getting that thing up the nose. I can hardly take that. This is way easier.”
The director of the VA Montana Health Care System, Judy Hayman, is excited to be chosen as the first state to offer vaccines to rural veterans: “It’s beyond exciting, we’re thrilled to be able to reach the Havre-area veterans and offer them the Moderna vaccine today."
According to Hayman, for the VA pilot program, vaccines were offered to veterans categorized in Phase 1B first. Then, to use the supply of 250 vaccines they opened the schedule to all other veterans in the Havre area. “Today we offered any Havre area veteran who receives care from us the ability to be vaccinated. So we scheduled veterans from age 31 to age 99.”
Lori Fitzgerald, the Chief of Pharmacy for Montana VA, said it was fulfilling to see veterans take the first step to the end of the pandemic: “I look at our veterans and they’re4 sitting there and they’re just so happy. It’s liberating to be able to start seeing the end to this pandemic. Being able to see their friends and loved ones again and this is the first step so we’re very excited.”
If a Montana veteran is not enrolled in VHA healthcare, they can call 406-447-7350 to find out if they are eligible. Unenrolled veterans are encouraged to call as soon as possible. If a veteran has questions about receiving the vaccine, they can send their healthcare team a secure message through MyHealtheVet or call 844-819-0833 to set up a time to discuss the vaccine.
The VA team will be back in Havre in on February 18 to administer the second dose of vaccinations to the veterans who were seen on Thursday.