Governor Greg Gianforte announced on Tuesday that the State of Montana has moved into Phase 1 B of the COVID 19 vaccination plan.

Major General Matthew Quinn with the Montana Army National Guard, Executive Director of the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, provided details in conjunction with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

“When Governor Gianforte came in, he looked at the vaccination plan and the priorities that had come out from the federal government as a recommendation, so he had the team get together and look at who was our most vulnerable population and modified the plan to focus on those that are 70 and above in Phase 1 B,”said General Quinn.  “70 and above, then ages 16 to 69 with serious underlying health conditions and then certainly our Native American and people of color population.”

General Quinn said, like all states, Montana is at the mercy of vaccine supplies coming from the federal government.

“Today we will get the notice on what next week's shipment will be for Montana, and that's the only notice we get, so it's hard for a county to plan any mass vaccination clinics not knowing more than four or five days out from the start of that week,” he said. “So that will continue to be what we call ‘the long pole in the tent’, and that's the federal allocation of vaccines.”

General Quinn said that just because Montana is considered a 'rural' state, doesn't mean its lower in importance that other states, aside from having a smaller population.

"For the most part, all states are on equal footing," he said. "I've heard that they may propose to look at how states are utilizing the vaccines, how efficiently they're utilizing the vaccine. And they may look at the population of over 65. But right now, it's simply based on population. And so we're holding our own and that and in fact, you know, we're one of the top 10 states in terms of utilizing the vaccine that we get."

General Quinn provided the best current advice on how Montanans can keep track of getting the vaccine as quickly as possible.

“I think the best thing they can do is stay in touch with their local public health service, watch the local public health announcements as they roll into Phase 1B and then also stay in touch with their medical provider,” he said. For folks 70 and over it's easy to know who falls into that category, but those with serious underlying conditions must work with their medical provider to determine if they are in that category; but watch the county public health and the hospital sites for announcements on that.”

The Missoula City County Health Department announced on Tuesday afternoon that as of now, Missoula County remains in Phase 1 A .

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