Kalispell Regional Healthcare is receiving 975 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine today, one of 10 healthcare facilities in Montana’s seven biggest communities to receive the initial round of 9,750 distributed doses.
KRH said it will begin distributing the vaccine to healthcare workers on Thursday. St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings and Bozeman Health were among the first healthcare facilities to receive the doses on Monday.
The dose deliveries are part of the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history as the country tries to rein in a virus that has killed 300,000 Americans and more than 800 Montanans. According to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first doses are being administered to healthcare workers.
The arrival of the vaccine generated bipartisan praise from Montana’s most prominent political leaders, including Gov. Steve Bullock, U.S. Congressman and Gov.-elect Greg Gianforte, and U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester.
“This is an extraordinary moment: Montana’s frontline health care workers are now getting the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations, a truly historic milestone in our fight to manage the spread of this virus and get our economy back on track,” Tester said this morning.
As the state’s newly elected governor, Gianforte said his “top priority is to ensure this vaccine is widely available to all Montanans.”
“American ingenuity and innovation have brought the light at the end of the tunnel closer and made it brighter,” Gianforte, whose term in Congress ends and term as governor begins in January, said yesterday. “It will help save lives and support our hardworking front-line health care workers. It will also help us safely get our economy going again, get Montana small businesses open, get Montanans back to work, and get our educators and kids back in the classroom.”
In a fact sheet, KRH said the hospital will “provide a safe environment in which to administer the vaccine, and resources for employees to learn more about the vaccine, but whether or not to vaccinate is an employee’s choice.” The hospital is following CDC recommendations in its vaccine distribution.
KRH has multiple cold-storage options, including an ultra-cold freezer that can safely hold the Pfizer vaccine at -112 degrees Fahrenheit “until ready to be injected or up to 6 months.” The ultra-cold freezer has the capacity to hold more than 26,000 doses.
Because of the limited supply, KRH will prioritize distribution of the vaccine, first giving it to healthcare workers with “repeated/high risk of COVID-19,” followed by healthcare workers with “incidental risk of COVID-19.”
“Next will include all non-patient facing hospital staff,” the hospital stated.
KRH said vaccines for non-healthcare workers and members of the community are expected to be available in a later distribution phase. Information about distribution locations and dates will be communicated to the community when that information is available.
“While vaccination is one step toward fighting this pandemic, we encourage the community to continue their efforts to stop the surge by washing their hands, wearing a face covering and practice social distancing,” KRH said.