At a press conference in Helena on Tuesday, Governor Greg Gianforte announced the expansion of COVID 19 vaccinations to the next phase, which will be 1 B Plus.

Gianforte noted the increase in the number of Montanans vaccinated so far, as well as the steady decrease in the number of COVID cases and deaths.

“Effective Monday, March 8, the state will move into Phase 1 B plus,” said Governor Gianforte. “In phase 1 B plus COVID-19 vaccines will be available to Montanans 60 years of age and older, and Montanans between 16 and 59 years of age with additional underlying medical conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis and liver disease.”

Gianforte said the expansion will help continue to vaccinate those most in danger of serious illness and death due to COVID 19.

“With this expansion, we are prioritizing population groups which account for nearly 90% of Montana's total deaths and more than 70% of Montana's hospitalizations during this pandemic,” he said. “Through this thoughtful data driven common sense approach, we will continue to minimize hospitalizations and deaths from this virus.”

Regarding the rollout of vaccines, Gianforte referred the question to Bekki Kirsch Wehner, DPHHS Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau Chief, and the Immunization Program Section Supervisor.

“Each week, we're notified by the CDC for the allocations for Montana,” said Kirsch Wehner. “This usually happens on Tuesdays, and I'm really pleased to report that each week, Montana maximizes their allocation and orders every vaccine that's available to us once we're notified of that allotment. We work with the jurisdictions across the state to determine how to best allocate those vaccines to each and every jurisdiction. This process has gone on each week since December to make sure that we get equitable distribution across the state of Montana.”

Adjutant General Matthew Quinn, commander of the Montana COVID-19 Task Force, was asked about the number of Montanans in Phase 1 B Plus.

“As we looked at Phase 1 B plus and we focused on continuing to take care of the most vulnerable, we looked at that population within that age group,” said General Quinn. “We estimated on how many in that age group would already have been included in the vaccination due to 16 to 69, with serious underlying conditions, and then we looked at a possible uptake. So we're thinking that about 100,000 to 140,000 individuals would be included in this expansion.”

To date, 260,705 doses have been administered in Montana, with more than 200,000 doses administered since launching Phase 1B.

 

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