BILLINGS — Appointments are filling up for the first week of Yellowstone County's centralized, community COVID-19 vaccination clinic, with a total of 2,250 first doses of vaccine available to be administered inside Cedar Hall on the MetraPark campus, said Greg Neill, RiverStone Health emergency response manager Monday.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, 37 health care workers from Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, RiverStone Health and student nurses from Montana State University Billings will administer first doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Monday around 6 p.m., there were still appointments available on Wednesday and Thursday this week. To sign up, visit mtreadyclinic.org.
Appointments can also be made over the phone by calling 406-651-6596. However, all appointments available to be made over the phone are booked up for this week, according to RiverStone Health staff.
Since December 2020, Yellowstone County residents have been fighting to secure an appointment at one of three sites offered by the local hospitals. Over the next few weeks, staff from all three hospitals will transition their efforts to offer vaccine only at Cedar Hall.
"The biggest advantage for the community is having one telephone number to call if you don't have Internet access. And the other one is one link to be able to schedule your appointment on the Internet, instead of having three different locations to go to. That's huge," Neill said.
Another advantage of a centralized site is that hospital staff can begin to open up space previously used up by vaccination clinics.
"For RiverStone Health, we’ve been using all of our conference rooms for the vaccinations and then of course people are not being able to have their meetings and stuff like that. They’re anxious for us to move out and get into the bigger community so life can sort of get back to normal at RiverStone Health," Neill said.
Until a more regular supply of vaccine comes to Yellowstone County, the centralized vaccination site will only operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
MetraPark Cedar Hall vax clinic hours
- Tuesday: 1 - 4:30 p.m.
- Wednesday: 8 - 11:30 a.m. and 1 - 4:30 p.m.
- Thursday: 8 - 11:30 a.m. and 1 - 4:30 p.m.
Blue signs inside the MetraPark entrance on Fourth Avenue North will direct people to Cedar Hall, which is on the southwest end of the midway, directly next to the 4H building. Parking is available right in front of Cedar Hall.
People are asked to not go inside until five minutes before their appointment to keep the building less congested. Masks will be required to be worn once inside. After filling out some paperwork, people will be given their shot, then moved to chairs to be observed for allergic reactions.
The observation period can last between 15 and 30 minutes.
Neill said nurses will determine the length of time someone needs to be observed based on questions asked about the patient's previous history with adverse reactions to vaccine.
“The nurses will ask you some questions about what your reactions were, what the vaccination was and they will determine whether you need to wait 30 minutes or 15 minutes. But 90 percent of the people, it’s just 15 minutes," Neill said.
People will also be scheduled for their second dose, an appointment Neill said is very important to keep. The state automatically sends the county second doses of vaccine. If you miss the second dose appointment, it could be a long time before your name comes up again.
"If you don’t make that appointment, you may have to wait until we have an opening in a second dose clinic to get you that second dose. We'll have a list that we'll keep, but boy it might be two months, it might be a month, it might be six months until we can get you that second dose if you can not show up for that second dose appointment," Neill said.
Once more vaccine supply is available, Neill said the centralized clinic has the capability to vaccinate 850 people in eight hours per day.
People who are waiting to receive a second dose of vaccine should not schedule an appointment at the Cedar Hall clinic. People who've received their first dose from Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare or RiverStone Health should get their second dose at the same location they got their first.