Health care workers to receive state’s first allotment of COVID-19 vaccine 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

HELENA – The first round of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine expected to be delivered to Montana in mid-December will target health care workers at Montana’s major hospitals, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Dec. 7.

"For nearly nine months, Montana’s health care workers have worked tirelessly to care for the people of this state, putting their own health at risk," he said. "By prioritizing the vaccination of those on the frontlines, we can help ensure our hospitals can continue serving patients while we continue to manage the spread of this virus in our communities."

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is expected to receive an estimated first dose allocation of 9,750 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines as soon as Dec. 15. Second round doses will be provided to the state in a separate shipment prior to the second dose schedule, which is 21 days apart from the first. The federal government requires that the first dose of this particular vaccine be shipped and delivered directly to facilities with cold storage access.

Round one allocations will be provided to the following locations:

• Billings Clinic, Billings

• St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings

• Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, Bozeman

• St. James Hospital, Butte

• Benefis Health System, Great Falls

• Great Falls Clinic, Great Falls

• St. Peter’s Health, Helena

• Kalispell Regional Medical Center, Kalispell

• Providence St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula

• Community Medical Center, Missoula

"It’s very encouraging that we’re close to receiving our first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine, but we must all remain vigilant and continue to follow all the public health safety measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19," said DPHHS acting Director Erica Johnston. "DPHHS is committed to implementing the state’s vaccination plan by working with communities and organizations all across Montana in the weeks and months ahead."

The allocation each location receives will be based off of a survey conducted by DPHHS with Montana hospitals on the estimated number of healthcare workers that will receive the vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine contains 975 doses per box. 

With the requirement of cold storage and the large number of doses per box with the Pfizer vaccine, the plan to allocate the first round to Montana’s large hospitals for their health care workers is the most expedient and best utilizes the resources available.

Montana is anticipated to receive a second round shipment of vaccines a week subsequent to the first round that will contain both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The second round allocation will focus on rural hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. The Moderna vaccine includes 100 doses per box and does not require cold storage, making it more easily delivered to rural settings or small facilities.

The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) crafted recommendations that both health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be offered vaccines in the initial phase and the recommendations are supported by the CDC. To ensure a fair and equitable distribution, Montana will be guided by the ACIP recommendations.

The vaccine will enter the state in various ways. In addition to DPHHS receiving a state allocation, there is a separate allocation for federal organizations such as Indian Health Services and the Veterans’ Administration. The CDC asked Montana tribes to elect whether they wish to receive their vaccine allocation from state or federal sources. Pharmacies partnering with the federal government will administer the vaccine in long-term care facilities.  

The state is still acquiring details from the federal government on subsequent rounds of vaccines and will provide additional plans as they are finalized.