GREAT FALLS, Mont. - You may now qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine this week, with two counties in Central Montana adding different age brackets and groups under Phase 1B.
On top of those 70 and older, the Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD) says residents between the ages of 60 and 69 can register for their shots if they have certain health conditions.
CCHD is opening over 3,000 appointments within two weeks at a time after including 10 qualifying health conditions for adults in their 60s, like cancer, diabetes and down syndrome. Public Health Officer Trisha Gardner tells Montana Right Now the department plans on moving further down the age bracket, depending on community interest.
“As these appointments fill up and we get through 60 to 69, we’ll drop the age lower and continue that way until we’ve got everybody in [Phase] 1B,” Gardner said. “If we don’t have interest from the community to get it in certain age brackets, we’ll continue to go down to make sure we’re using the vaccine that we have.”
You can still register online once it opens up again, but Gardner says CCHD will no longer place you on waitlists, especially with vaccines becoming more available in other places.
“We’ve had to take a number of people off the waitlist because they received their vaccine elsewhere such as the VA, or on [Malmstrom Air Force] base,” she said, explaining how the shift also helps lift a load off of CCHD staff, allowing them to complete other tasks throughout the day.
In Lewis & Clark County, local Native Americans and people of color above the age of 16 can now get vaccinated even if they don't have underlying health conditions.
“There’s generally been less access to care for individuals in these populations, so we want to make sure we’re serving them now, that we’re getting them covered early in this process,” Eric Merchant, who works as Lewis & Clark Public Health’s Communicable Diseases Division Administrator said.
Merchant says you can sign up on LCPH’s official website starting Friday at 9 a.m., with a new ‘Waitwhile’ system that gets rid of misleading posts online.
“[The last system] was sending folks to places to be vaccinated that weren’t actually real events,” Merchant said. “[Waitwhile] is a much more user friendly strategy and it’s not subject to things like setting up fake events.”
Whether you’re in Cascade or Lewis & Clark County, you’ll get a reminder card for your second shot when you head in for your first dose of the COVID vaccine.
While their growing availability shows progress in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic, both Gardner and Merchant urge their respective communities to continue social distancing measures at this time.