HAMILTON — Ravalli County Health Director Tiffany Webber says the Bitterroot is keeping up with the demand for the COVID-19 vaccine and is clarifying recent reports that the county is somehow "stockpiling" shots.
The county continues to vaccinate Bitterroot residents, and especially older people, at a steady clip. That's true whether it's through the Ravalli County Health Department, local health care providers, or community clinics like the one we showed you on Monday at St. Francis Catholic Church in Hamilton. But there are still some challenges when it comes to the duplication of names from people that signed up several times to get their shots.
“So many people applied and then got shot somewhere else, when it all opened up," explained Ravalli County Public Health Director Tiffany Webber. "So now we're calling and calling and calling and a lot of times people have already gotten the vaccine somewhere else, or we already vaccinated them and they had just signed up seven different times. So we're fairly close to just sort of opening it up and saying, if you haven't heard from us, give us a call.”
You may have heard that Ravalli County has an oversupply of vaccine. Webber told MTN News that's not really the case. And she also points out that that pool of vaccine is available not just to the County, but to the community as a whole.
“It doesn't just belong to public health, it belongs to the County and all of those enrolled providers. And so we're all dipping into that and taking vaccine.
That means the shots are coming from the same allocation from the state, whether at county health, or other distribution points. Webber does say it can be a challenge some weeks to use an entire "tray" of vaccine, which can contain more than 1-thousand doses. And a few times the county has decided to share with other Montana communities that might be short.
"It's better for us to pass on a tray and see if there are other people around the state that need it more than we do, you know, then for us to sit on it was the thinking," Webber said. "And so somehow that got misconstrued as to we have all these doses and we're turning vaccine away and people are still waiting. No, we’re just trying to be smart about where things are going and not sit on vaccine.”
Outside of vaccine, Webber also said an additional challenge is just having enough qualified people to administer shots.
"And we're getting a lot of retired nurses, and God bless their hearts for coming and help us. But you know, they don't have 40 hours or 80 hours a week at him and I think we're just starting to see a little bit of that COVID fatigue in our healthcare people where they're just like you know, on five days a week, giving shots and then mass clinics on Saturdays. And it's it's getting harder and harder.”
Webber says she's waiting to give that general call for vaccines for everyone until the City of Hamilton finishes an outreach to find elderly residents that want a shot and might have been missed in the initial vaccinations. Ravalli County did begin offering vaccine to anyone 16-and-older last week.
The state COVID-19. tracking map shows 21,187 vaccinations have been administered in Ravalli County and 8,330 residents are fully immunized.