MISSOULA — Some Missoula County residents are finding themselves frustrated when going online or calling to register for the COVID-19 vaccine.
For example, one clinic that was offered by the Health Department last week had 400 vaccine appointments available, but the slots filled in a mere eight minutes.
“We have, you know, thousands and thousands of people who are eligible to get vaccinated. The minute that a clinic opens then it just goes like that, like all the appointments are just gone,” Missoula County Health Promotion Director Cindy Farr said.
Missoula County has an estimated 40,000 residents currently eligible in Phase 1B of the vaccination plan, but the demand far outweighs the supply.
Farr told MTN News that Missoula County is only receiving between 1,200 and 1,500 vaccine doses per week and vaccine distributors aren’t consistently informed about how many doses they’ll have.
“It is 100% up in the air. We do not know until we get that email on Friday if we’re going to get vaccine the next week,” Farr said.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) lets each county know on Friday the number of doses they’ll get by the following Tuesday.
That number is calculated on a federal level - which factors in complex information from population size to the availability of storage facilities.
Each distributor within Missoula County has different methods of signing people up. For example, Partnership Health Center may reach out directly to their patients.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded the vaccine coordination team helps each distributor share doses if there are extras which leads to last minute vaccination clinics like the 200-person one held on Friday.
Farr said she is concerned about vaccine rollout happening fast enough.
“We are not out of the woods yet and it is quite possible that we could still see an increase in COVID cases and another spike before we get to a point where we’ve got enough people vaccinated that we achieve herd immunity,” Farr said.
Officials tell MTN News there are still many unknowns with COVID-19 and caution the public that it hasn’t been determined how long vaccine immunity will last.
According to the latest available state data, 16,133 COVID-19 immunizations have been performed and 4,419 people are fully vaccinated.