HELENA, Mont. - Lewis and Clark County is opening COVID-19 eligibility to all residents 16 years old and older beginning Friday, Lewis and Clark Public Health announced Wednesday.
In addition to opening vaccine eligibility, Lewis and Clark County Public Health announced in a press conference vaccine clinic hours and dates are lengthening to vaccinate as many people as possible and as soon as possible.
LCPH Health Officer Drenda Niemann said in the press call Lewis and Clark County will open 6 weeks worth of vaccine appointments.
Niemann said this is major news for the county because the ability to open six weeks worth of vaccine appointments at a time means the majority of the population will have the opportunity to get vaccinated within the next couple months.
"This is big news because we've only been able to do really one week at a time. Our supply has been really not very stable, we weren't sure week-to-week how much vaccine supply we would be getting," Niemann said in the press conference.
In total, LCPH is opening 2,200 vaccine appointments for next week for county residents.
Online appointment scheduling for residents 16 years old and older opens Friday at 9 a.m.
In the meantime, Niemann reminded people should continue to wash hands, social distance and avoid big crowd gatherings until Lewis and Clark County reaches herd immunity via COVID-19 vaccinations.
Lewis and Clark County is distributing vaccines through St. Peter's Health Center, PureView Health Center, mobile vaccination clinics and the Montana Indian Alliance.
Lewis and Clark County set up a COVID-19 vaccine locator for residents to find where they can get vaccinated in the county.
The vaccination clinic at St. Peter's Health Center, located on Broadway, is currently distributing the Moderna vaccine to residents 18 years old and older .
LCPH Emergency Coordinator Brett Lloyd said in the press conference residents may show up to their vaccine appointments at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds 10 to 15 minutes before their appointment begins. However, he suggested it is important to set aside 40 minutes to an hour for the entire vaccination process because vaccine receivers need wait at the clinic 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine in the event they have a bad reaction -- 30 minutes for people who are high risk, or have had an allergic reaction to any vaccine in the past.
Lloyd reminded there is paperwork vaccine receivers need to complete before receiving their first and second dose. He said it is important for residents to not come to their appointment if they are feeling sick to avoid spreading the virus. Additionally, people cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have had any vaccination within the previous two weeks.
For children 16 to 17 years old receiving the Pfizer vaccine, parents or legal guardians need to be at the clinic in order for their child receive a vaccination.