The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services announced on Monday that COVID 19 was officially the third leading cause of death in 2020 and continues to be deadly in 2021.

State Epidemiologist Laura Williamson provided details to KGVO News on Monday afternoon.

“Today, Montana DPHHS released a report in which we looked at death certificate data over the course of the pandemic,” said Williamson. “From the beginning of 2020 through September of 2021, just a couple months ago, what we found was that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death for 2020 and it appears that it will also be the third leading cause of death in 2021.”

Williamson provided detailed numbers of the fatalities from COVID 19.

“We recorded 1,258 COVID-19 deaths in 2020 and 842 COVID-19 deaths in 2021,” she said. “So that's the first nine months of 2021. We've already had 258 deaths in October of 2021, so those data weren't included in the analysis in the report, but we're estimating that we've got about 1100 deaths already in 2021, and the year’s not quite over with.”

Regarding the effort to vaccinate as many Montanans as possible to bring the COVID fatality numbers down, both Williamson and Todd Harwell, Administrator for Public Health and Safety for DPHHS, said the vaccines have been thoroughly tested on adults and children.

“Testing for the vaccines for kids went through the exact same process it did for adults,” said Harwell. “So with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, they're all going through the same process to make sure that ‘A’ the vaccines works and ‘B’, that it's effective and safe in for kids as well as for adults and other high risk groups like pregnant women.”

Harwell said there has been a great deal of scientific research to ensure that the COVID 19 vaccinations are safe and effective for all ages.

“Our national scientific apparatus here is doing what they need to do to ensure that the vaccine is safe,” he said. “I think it's really panned out if you don't know to date how many millions of doses of vaccine have been given in Montana and how many billions of doses have been given across the US, but the Centers for Disease Control has a system in place to monitor over time, the safety of these vaccines, and it's clear that they're safe and effective to help prevent infection, hospitalization and death.”

From the average annual number of deaths for the five years prior to the pandemic the leading causes of death in Montana were heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease. The top two remain heart disease and cancer.

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