HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday that Montana will be able to redirect thousands of unused COVID-19 vaccines over the coming weeks.
In a news conference, Gianforte said the pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens were allocated about 19,500 doses that they won’t need in the state’s long-term care facilities. He said the state and the pharmacies federal government had given approval
“Every dose Montana receives is critical, which is why I promised you in my first week in office that we wouldn’t let vaccines sit on the shelves,” Gianforte said. “Today, we’re following through on that promise.”
Leaders said these vaccines will be used as first and second doses for almost 10,000 people. They will go to those currently eligible in Phase 1B of the state vaccination plan – including people 70 and older and those with underlying health conditions.
All of the redirected doses are of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage. The state plans to send them to hospitals around Montana. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will work with local partners to set up community vaccination clinics.
“The good news here is this is essentially another week’s worth of doses coming into the state, so this is going to help the most vulnerable get vaccinated.” said Gianforte.
Maj. Gen. Matt Quinn, who leads Gianforte’s COVID task force, said the vaccines were allocated to the pharmacies, but they were never transported to Montana. He said they could start arriving in the state by the end of this week.
“We would look for those clinics to happen sometime during that following next week, if not early intp the week after,” he said. “So we should get these shots in arms as quickly as we can.”
CVS and Walgreens were tasked with administering vaccines at long-term care facilities across the nation. State leaders said the pharmacies were allocated enough doses for every bed at a facility in Montana, plus two staff members per bed.
“Not every bed is full; not every staff member chose to get the vaccines,” said Gianforte. “Those are the ones we’re reallocating.”
Gianforte said the pharmacies have conducted their first vaccination clinics at all but one of the state’s more than 200 facilities. He said about half of the residents and staff in those facilities have received the first dose, and that the reallocation will leave enough for everyone eligible to get it.
Gianforte said Tuesday he’s still not satisfied with the overall vaccine allocation Montana has received from the federal government. He said they expect a small increase in their allotment next week, but that he still believes the state isn’t receiving an equitable share compared to other states.
Gianforte said he hopes federal leaders will take into account that Montana has been able to efficiently deliver the vaccine it has received. He said they have already administered 82% of the doses they’ve gotten.
“This is front-of-the-class performance for the country,” he said.