Gov. Steve Bullock announced Wednesday the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses for Montana could arrive as soon as Dec. 15 or 16.
“While we don’t know the exact number, we expect-- or have been told-- about 9,750 doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” said Bullock. “And then we’ll likely be receiving several thousand subsequent doses in the coming weeks.”
Bullock says Montana’s first allotment will focus on vaccinating the more than 40,000 health care workers in the state.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses that need to be administered three to four weeks apart to be fully effective. The state is anticipating hearing more information about the Moderna vaccine in the coming weeks once it receives approval.
Federal organizations like the Montana VA Health Care System and Indian Health Service will receive their own allocations of the vaccine separate from the state of Montana’s.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human services will be coordinating shipping, storage and distribution of the vaccine.
Bullock says realistically it will still be many months before a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available for the general population.
“This is the reality we must continue to live with until there is a widely distributed vaccine. That time will come, but until then Montanans need to stay true to our neighborly spirit of looking out for others in challenging times,” said Bullock.
Montana just saw it’s deadliest month for COVID-19 related deaths, with more than 300 Montanans passing away from complications of the virus in November.
Bullock stressed the importance of following COVID guidelines in order to help December not be worse.
“Wear the damn mask,”said Bullock. “There’s reason for real optimism with the vaccine coming out, but it’s not going to be distributed for some time and we have to continue to take preventative and protective measures to try and limit the spread of this virus. It is all throughout our state in community spread.”
Bullock said he has no plans for an additional lock down or potential fines, and expects Montanans to take the virus seriously.
At the press conference, Bullock also laid out how all of Montana’s $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding will be spent by the end of the year deadline.
$833 million went to more than a dozen grant programs, with the Business Stabilization program being the highest in need seeing three rounds paid out for a total of $254 million. $200 million went to local governments, and $417 million went to non-grant programs like cCOVID testing and national guard response.
Bullock aslo once again called on Congress to pass additional funding to support states, noting that Montanans and Montana businesses desperately need it.
“The pandemic continues on, and with it the financial and health impacts in all corners of our state,” Bullock said. “It will continue long beyond the Federal Government’s December 30 deadline of the CARES Act.”