Western MT rural health care facilities begin COVID-19 vaccinations

Moderna Vaccine
Posted at 5:31 PM, Dec 29, 2020

MISSOULA — Nearly two weeks after Missoula County hospitals started giving their frontline caregivers doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine, western Montana’s rural hospitals and health departments are doing the same with the Moderna COVID vaccine.

“We vaccinated 82 caregivers on the first day and that went smoothly, and we have another 30 or 40 today and 30 or 40 tomorrow," St. Joseph Medical Center CEO Devin Huntley told MTN News.

Huntley says the Polson hospital received 200 doses in total. He says, to a person, hospital staff has done a wonderful job of persevering as COVID has worked its way through the community, despite the emotional toll of seeing patients struggling on a daily basis in recent months.

Now, he says hope is higher than ever, "the vaccine gives the staff a real sense of excitement, you know the virus has been rough on us for nine months, and now the vaccinations give us a chance to fight back, so I think the staff is really excited about the opportunity to get vaccinated and start the recovery process.”

The Ravalli County Health Department received 100 doses of Moderna last week, and started their vaccinations on Tuesday morning, administering a total of 10 by early afternoon.

“It isn’t like any vaccine we’ve ever had before. It’s been many, many, many years in the making. It went very smoothly," said Ravalli County Health Department Director Tiffany Webber.

With Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital receiving 400 doses last week meant for frontline health care workers, Ravalli County Public Health is vaccinating first responders.

“I’ve been able to offer the vaccine to fire-fighters, EMS, I have reached out to city police, and the Sheriff’s Department," Webber said.

Webber, who’s from the Bitterroot Valley, says she has been surprised by how many first responders were signing up to get the vaccine considering what she says is the county’s autonomous way of thinking.

“We put out a survey on the Sheriff’s App, the Ravalli County’s Sheriff’s App. I was surprised to see that there was quite a few more wanting to get the vaccine," Webber told MTN News.

Huntley and Webber say they expect to receive the second of the two-dose vaccine in the coming days.