Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Vaccination plans moving forward in area

School employees vaccinations set this week, veterans vaccinations start next week


Last updated 1/12/2021 at 11:53am

Vaccination planning in the area continue to move forward, with Havre Public Schools’ employees set for vaccination this week and vaccinations for area veterans to start next week with the opening of the new location of the Merril Lundman Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in the Holiday Village Mall.

Schedules had to be revised after Gov. Greg Gianforte last week announced major revisions to the vaccination schedule, increasing the age-range allowed under Schedule 1B from 75 and older to 70 and older and adding people ages 16 to 69 with underlying health conditions.

It kept Native Americans and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications on the eligible groups, but removed other groups such as first responders, education and child care workers, food and agriculture workers, U.S. Postal Service employees and a lest of others.

The vaccinations for Havre Public Schools employees was already in the works when Gianforte made his announcement.

In a letter to Havre Interim Superintendent Craig Mueller, Hill County Health Officer Kim Larson said that by coordinating resources between the Hill County Health Department, Bullhook Community Health Center and Northern Montana Health Care and having satisfied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirement to cover health care workers first, Hill County Health Department was in a position to begin administering vaccinations to other priority groups and set up vaccination clinics for school district employees only.

Mueller listed this vaccination opportunity as a reason for his recommendation to increase in-class learning in the district later this month to four days a week.

Phase 1B

The Hill County Health Department issued a release saying it was working with Bullhook Community Health Center and Northern Montana Health Care in planning for the transition to Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccination. That is expected to begin the middle of this month depending on vaccine availability and completion of the vaccination of Phase 1A recipients.

The new eligible groups include, as listed above, people age 70 and older, Native Americans and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications, and people people 16-69 with high-risk medical conditions including:

• Cancer

• Chronic kidney disease

• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD

• Down Syndrome

• Heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies

• Immunocompromised state — weakened immune system — from solid organ transplant

• Severe obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)

• Sickle cell disease

• Types 1 and 2 diabetes

• On a case-by-case basis, medical providers may include individuals with other conditions that place them at elevated risk for COVID-19 related complications.

“We are working on plans for holding vaccination clinics within the community and will identify which Phase 1B groups will be vaccinated on which days,” the release said. “This is all dependent on vaccine availability in our community as well.

“Please continue to watch for additional updates on our plan for Phase 1B,” the release continues. “We will release more information when it is available. We appreciate your patience as we continue to adhere to vaccine allocation guidelines, as well as respond to the ongoing public health and health care needs in our community.”

Blaine County Health Department was in the process of getting names of people interested in vaccination under Phase 1B when Gianforte announced the changes to eligibility for that phase.

Blaine County Department’s Health Supervisor and Lead Local Health Official Jana McPherson-Hauer said this morning that the department continues to take calls from people who are interested in vaccination and believe they may qualify for phase 1B.

“We are gathering information from callers that will allow us to schedule appointments for people in a manner that prioritizes Phase 1B and eventually allows for a smooth transition into the next phase,” she said. “Due to vaccine availability as well as shipping, storage and use requirements this method allows us to have adequate management of the vaccine while reaching those who want the vaccine and meet the requirements for the current phase.

“We are looking forward beginning our Phase 1B opportunities within the next couple weeks,” McPherson-Hauer said.


And Montana VE Health Care System announced, as part of it being selected to lead a pilot program to bring vaccines to veterans in rural areas, a vaccination team will fly doses of the Moderna vaccine in speical plug-in coolers from Fort Harrison’s ultra-cold on-site freezer to Havre. This will allow veterans in the Havre area who are enrolled in the VHA health care system to be vaccinated.

“We are excited that our Montana team has been selected by Dr. (Richard) Stone, VHA’s executive in charge, to lead this rural vaccine distribution program,” said MTVACS Executive Director Judy Hayman. “The requirements to safely store, transport, and administer the vaccines in winter can present challenges for rural clinics and pharmacies. After fighting coronavirus for almost a year, we are grateful veterans in the Havre area can take one step closer towards safety and wellbeing. The whole MTVAHCS team will celebrate knowing these veterans will be safer from the pandemic.”

MTVAHCS staff has begun calling eligible enrolled veterans based on risk assessments to schedule vaccine appointments for the Havre vaccination event a week from Wednesday, Jan. 21. The vaccines are free and require two doses, given 28 days apart. Veterans will be scheduled for their second dose at their first appointment.

All veterans who receive a vaccine will be closely monitored for reactions, side effects, or adverse events, the release said.

“Over 60 percent of MTVAHCS staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine so far,” said MTVAHCS Chief of Staff Dr. J.P. Maganito. “Our staff choose to get this vaccine to protect themselves, their patients, their loved ones, and their communities. This vaccine is safe, effective, and is necessary for us all to help establish herd immunity and finally end this pandemic.”

The vaccination event will be held in the former Herberger’s suite at Havre’s Holiday Village Mall at 1753 Highway 2, NW Suite 3.

All veterans will be screened for COVID-19 before entering the building and must wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth, the release said.

Vaccines are available by appointment only to veterans who are enrolled in VHA healthcare. The release said that any veteran who is not enrolled is encouraged to call 406-447-7350 to find out if they are eligible. Unenrolled Veterans are encouraged to call as soon as possible. If a veteran meets eligibility requirements, they may be able to receive the vaccine Jan. 21.

The release said MTVAHCS is planning multiple vaccination events around the state and will call veterans to schedule appointments. MTVAHCS staff have begun calling eligible enrolled veterans to schedule vaccine appointments this week for Fort Harrison and Missoula’s first veteran vaccination events. MTVAHCS will continue to administer COVID-19 vaccines until all enrolled veterans who want to receive the vaccine have been immunized.

  High-risk veterans will be contacted first followed by all other veterans who want a vaccine. High-risk veterans are identified as persons 75 years or older and any veteran who has a medical condition that may put them at increased risk based on CDC risk criteria and VHA guidance.

The release said veterans can follow COVID-19 vaccination updates via email with registration online at https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USVA/subscriber/new ; Facebook, @VAMontana ; and Twitter, @VAMontanaHCS . If a veteran has questions about receiving the vaccine, they can send their health care team a secure message through MyHealtheVet or call 844-819-0833 to set up a time to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.


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