First doses of COVID vaccine arrive on Blackfeet Reservation

Posted at 3:10 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-24 11:01:56-05

GREAT FALLS — As the Blackfeet Reservation approaches its third consecutive month shut down because of the pandemic, the first round of coronavirus vaccines arrived on Wednesday morning. At the top of the list for vaccinations are healthcare workers and residents of the Blackfeet Care Center, a long-term care facility in Browning. Fifteen residents (out of 16) and 30 staff members were among the first to receive the treatment.

“It’s everybody’s Christmas present,” said James McNeely, public information officer for the Blackfeet Nation.

McNeely said a vaccine committee was also formed to manage the vaccine rollout, in keeping with guidelines from the CDC, the state of Montana and Indian Health Services. Because the tribal council is still waiting to receive Moderna vaccines from the state, many of the first doses were provided from the federal government to Blackeet Community Hospital, which is run by IHS.

Although the reservation is still shut down, active cases have mostly declined since the end of September, when the Blackeet Tribal Council first decided to impose restrictions. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were only 24 active cases — compared to nearly 400 back in October — and the seven-day moving average of cases had fallen drastically since September. McNeely said it’s likely the tribe will consider moving to Phase Two of reopening in the new year, when more vaccines are available.

“People are following the rules here,” McNeely said. “We’re pretty proud of ourselves.”

For more information and COVID-19 resources, visit the Blackfeet website.