MISSOULA — Missoula County health officials announced on Thursday afternoon that in one week’s time, they could be done with phase 1A of vaccine distribution.
Now, as they turn their focus to the next phase, more planning and coordination will be necessary to accommodate the thousands who fall into the 1B category.
"The stakes and expectations around the COVID-19 vaccination could not be higher," said Adriane Beck, Missoula County's newly appointed vaccine deployment officer. "For most, this vaccine is a gateway for normalcy. For many others, it's a life saving measure that we cannot understate."
As frontline healthcare workers and long term care facilities near the end of their vaccinations, Beck has to be ready to vaccinate Phase 1B, and those to follow, but it’s a job that no single person could do alone, so she’s called on the Western Montana All Hazard Incident Management Team.
This team will coordinate with Missoula County’s access points in distributing the vaccine.
"Our current vaccination situation is deeply decentralized," said county commissioner Josh Slotnick. "We have the University, our two major hospitals, the Health Department, PHC, All Nations, long term care facilities and commercial pharmacies involved."
This decentralized system will be used to ensure all of those in Phase 1B receive a vaccine. That includes American Indians and other people of color, those age 70 and older, and people ages 16-69 with a qualifying health condition.
Beck’s team is working nonstop to determine how many doses of a vaccine will be needed for all of these people, but she said the numbers are hard to estimate.
"Because there are many opportunities for vaccine providers to become registered vaccine providers with the state of Montana, and therefore, they can order their own vaccine, getting those numbers and knowing what is available in our community is probably our number one priority," said Beck.
While the team awaits more information and more shipments of the vaccine, they’re developing strategies for connecting citizens with vaccine providers.
It’s a long road ahead, but according to Beck, they're ready for the challenge.
"This team will remain in place until the vaccine is widely available in Missoula County to any resident over the age of 16 who wants to get vaccinated."
Learn where you fall in the distribution phasing here.