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Pandemic Continues as County Begins Mass Vaccinations

Vaccine Selection to Become First Come First Serve in February

Valley County is revamping the way they will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to the Phase 1B qualified persons in February.

According to the Valley County Health Department, the new method of selecting persons to be vaccinated will transition to a first-come-first-serve basis. The rollout in January had been by a lottery selection of those who had signed up for the initial wave of vaccines to those most at risk of the virus.

In essence, the system will transition from a random selection of names on the list to a first to sign up, first to receive the vaccine. The health department intends to complete the names that had signed up prior to the new system before transitioning to the February first-come system.

According to a statement from the health department director Lynn Miller and distributed through the chamber of commerce, the public was upset with the lottery-based system and the transition utilized in January and it was necessary as the kinks and logistics were sorted out. The email explained that previous to setting up a list system, the health department had been keeping separate lists based on the employee answering the phone at the time. That made it difficult to determine order and Director Miller decided to make the selection random.

"People are upset about the 'lottery' selection process," said Miller in the email. "That came about because people were calling to get on our vaccine list before we were in 1B, before we had a vaccine commitment to arrive from DPHHS, and before we had a list started. All of our six (6) staff were taking names separately for about one week. I feel that because we had all collected names and that many people did not know to call and assert their placement on a list, it was UNFAIR to give the vaccine according to who called first."

As of Jan. 28, the health department had 600 individuals left to vaccinate on the random list. The new first-come-first-serve list began as of Feb. 1. The health department is planning to do a vaccination clinic every Wednesday as long as a supply of vaccines is available. Miller praised the first 100 vaccines distributed at the initial vaccine clinic held at St. Raphael's Parish Center on Jan. 27.

In the same Jan. 28 statement, Miller wrote, "I hope that people have heard about the incredible first COVID-19 vaccine clinic at St. Raphael's Parish Center yesterday, January 27. Kyla Burns and Taylor Zerbe planned the layout and logistics, Rick Seiler and Joleen Cotton from Valley County managed the parking lot and assistance into the building, Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital, Valley County Health Department staff, and community volunteers saw 100 people through registration, screening, vaccination, and observation in less than two (2) hours. It was very well planned and organized!"

DPHHS is expected to increase the allotted doses per county as the week's continue. Miller pointed out that the cases of vaccines come in sets of 100 doses and she expects Valley County will continue to receive 100 doses for the next few weeks until DPHHS sends along 200 doses for a single week.

"If we hope to get past this time of masks and social distancing, we need everyone to get the vaccine. Even if you think that you don't need it, everyone else needs YOU to get it," said Miller before ending her statement by saying, "Please be patient with the vaccination process. Please know that every person is valued and equally deserving of this vaccine. With the help of our partners, we will get Valley County vaccinated! Keep wearing the masks – yes, even you at the basketball games. Keep your circle small. Sit separately with only household members at an event. Don't gather together to warm up at the hockey game. Do everything that you can do to keep Valley County healthy."

According to the State's vaccine tracker dashboard, Valley County has administered 677 doses of the vaccine with 155 people fully immunized. The State's COVID-19 tracker also shows Valley County with 42 active cases, 711 recovered cases and 10 cases resulting in the deaths of those infected.

Governor Greg Gianforte has left in place mask mandates and other mitigation requirements to prevent the spread of the disease across Montana. Cases in the state peaked in November adding 1,613 in a single day on November 13 according to On Jan. 31 the state added 106 cases down from January's high of 837 cases added on Jan. 7-just a week after New Year's Day celebrations.

To date a total of 94,070 cases have been verified in Montana with 3,618 active cases as of Feb. 2. Over 1,230 Montanans have passed away as a result of contracting the coronavirus.


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