HAMILTON — While the availability and need, for COVID vaccine boosters continue to create some confusion, Ravalli County Health officials say the guidance has become much clearer, and shots are available.
Like most Montana counties, Ravalli County has been coping with high case numbers in recent weeks, although it appears to be "leveling off". However, there's also a gap in numbers because of home testing.
"It does say on the box to please call your local public health if you have a positive. But I don't think we're getting or capturing that data. I think, you know, it's very few and far between that people actually call and tell us they had a positive test. So it's hard to account for those," explained Ravalli County Health Director Tiffany Webber.
But based on the latest observations, Webber told MTN News indicators remain stable, including hospital capacity.
Perhaps the larger issue has been helping vaccinated people sort through all the emerging info about booster shots. But she says that info from the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPPHS) has been clarified, including last week with the boosters for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
"The Moderna is pretty much the same as the Pfizer, except that it's a half dose, not that anyone really needs to know that. But it's the same recommendation," Webber said. "The 65 and older, especially if you live in congregate care living centers, anyone who's immune-compromised, anyone 18-plus that's either got a qualifying condition or is a high-risk area or profession." - Ravalli County Health Director Tiffany Webber
The boosters, and vaccine for first-time shots, remain available throughout Ravalli County, whether at local pharmacies, or the Health Department on Tuesdays. And labeling isn't as important as it was last spring.
"The new recommendations for this booster, you do not have to stick with the same vaccine that you got. So say if you got a Johnson & Johnson you can come in and get a Pfizer or Moderna," Webber explained. "Now, it wouldn't be like a two dose series. One more dose that would be considered fully vaccinated."
Meanwhile, Webber added that COVID-19 shots for kids are still a ways off. "That dosing is going to look different. So it's the same vaccine, but the dosing's going to be different. the packaging's going to be different. So at the moment, nobody has any pediatric doses yet."
While this is all sorted out, Webber still advises personal responsibility; getting your first vaccinations if you choose, wearing masks when out among strangers and following that guideline of staying home whenever you feel sick.
The Montana COVID-19 tracking map showed Ravalli County was reporting 348 active cases on Wednesday. A total of 5,038 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Ravalli County including 4,624 recoveries and 66 deaths.
A total of 20,251 Ravalli County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 representing 52% of the eligible population.