MISSOULA — Efforts to increase vaccinations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Missoula got a boost on Thursday with the influx of $38,000 in federal funding.
The City-County Health Department said the funding should arrive this month to help support the county’s immunization program and promote mass vaccinations.
“It’ll be an up front payment through the end of this fiscal year that we can use for things like providing education and outreach to the community for Covid vaccinations,” said Colleen Morris, head of the county’s immunization clinic. “It can be used to collaborate with our partners, including pharmacies, hospitals and clinics.”
In a standard year, Morris said the local health department generally receives around $45,000 for regular vaccinations. The funding expected this month will be in addition to that amount for a total compensation of around $84,000.
“We can use some of the money to actually help organize some of our mass vaccine efforts, and any storage and handling issues with the vaccine,” Morris said. “We could potentially use it to purchase another refrigerator or freezer if we have to. We can use the money retroactively.”
Health departments across the country are ramping up efforts to carry out mass vaccinations and are waiting for the Covid vaccines to become more widely available.
Along the way, Morris said other vaccine efforts have taken a backseat. As a result, the number of children receiving critical childhood vaccines has dropped.
“Around the country, we began seeing a decrease in childhood vaccination rates back in May,” she said. “There was evidence that vaccinations were dropping around the country because people were staying at home and isolating.”
That could be problematic once the pandemic subsides and the public begins to intermingle again. Gannon said the City-County Health Department is working to ramp up its regular vaccine program, which had slowed when the focus fell on COVID-19.
“We see there’s been a drop in vaccination rates and we need to get it up,” Morris said. “We had to put a temporary hold on vaccines while we were trying to figure out how to roll out our COVID vaccines. We don’t want an outbreak of other communicable diseases that are vaccine preventable.”