Area COVID vaccinations begin, new cases decline

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Vaccinations begin

Beaverhead County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Tom Wagenknecht received a dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, Dec. 30 at Beaverhead County Public Health. Public Health Director and registered nurse Sue Hansen, right, conducted the vaccination. Courtesy photo


New coronavirus cases continued a downward trend this week as local public health officials began vaccinating against the disease.

As of Tuesday, Beaverhead County tallied 18 new cases for the week, with 20 of those considered “active,” according to state of Montana data. There have been 781 total cases in the county since the start of the pandemic.

This week’s new cases were mostly from residents in their teens (4), followed by those in their 20s (3).

Beaverhead County Public Health Director Sue Hansen said public health, Barrett Hospital and the Community Health Center received their first allocations of the Moderna vaccine Christmas week. The vaccine is a two-dose regimen that will first be administered to healthcare personnel on the front lines, which includes those who work in hospitals, clinics and pharmacies; first responders and emergency services; and other front line healthcare workers such as dentists, optometrists and physical therapists. Long-term care and assisted living facilities providers and residents are also the highest priority for vaccination.

Those next in line include those working in education and child care, persons over age 75, individuals in congregate care or corrections facilities, and those working in critical infrastructure professions.

The Moderna vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, which teaches the body how to respond to a virus; it does not contain the virus itself, Hansen said. This is a new type of vaccine for the public, but has been used for years in research.

The difficulty with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, both mRNA vaccines, is they must be stored in very cold environments and thawed before use. The Moderna vaccine does not require as cold of storage, making it ideal for more rural distribution. Hansen said the Moderna vaccine vials contain 10 doses, which must be administered within six hours once the vial is punctured. Local health care providers must arrange to have 10 people ready to take the vaccine in that period of time to avoid wasting doses.

Hansen added the vaccine will be provided at no cost to individuals.

Barrett Hospital and Healthcare vaccinated 116 employees as of Dec. 30 with its first supply of Moderna’s vaccine, Marketing Manager and COVID-19 Public Information Officer Christie Trapp said. She added she expected additional vaccination would take place this week.

Ruby Valley Medical Center in Sheridan received 100 doses of Moderna’s vaccine Dec. 23, and the first dose is being used to vaccinate employees who choose to receive it, according to a press release.

The state added 2,952 cases and 66 deaths over the week. As of Tuesday, the state counted 83,378 total COVID-19 cases and 1,005 deaths since the start of the pandemic.