COVID vaccine is on its way — what does that mean for Montana's timeline?

Posted at 9:01 PM, Dec 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-13 23:01:52-05

GREAT FALLS — The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA and recommended by the CDC for anyone over the age of 16.

The first wave of deliveries are on their way, but what does that mean for the vaccine timeline in Montana?

Last week, Great Falls Clinic Infection Preventionist Heidi LePard told MTN that, although the Clinic’s vaccine preparations were well underway, there was still a lot of information that Montana’s hospitals were waiting to hear from state and federal officials.

“It is like planning a wedding,” LePard said in a statement. “But you don’t know who is getting married, if they are getting married, when they are getting married, or how many guests are coming.”

Now that the FDA has approved an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine, some of those questions have answers.

FedEx and UPS are teaming up to deliver the first round of Pfizer vaccines across the country, a rare partnership for a good cause. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the companies are using a “very tightly controlled system” to deliver the doses to the 636 sites that governors have designated for this initial shipment.

COVID vaccine is on its way — what does that mean for Montana's timeline?

We know from earlier this month that Montana is slated to receive 9,750 Pfizer vaccines at first, which will be divided amongst 10 hospitals throughout the state. UPS and FedEx say some of the shipments will arrive within one day, while the rest will arrive the next day. That means health care workers could be getting shots by Monday.

Benefis Health System in Great Falls is one of the 10 hospitals that will receive part of the initial shipment. A representative told MTN last week that the hospital would be ready whenever the vaccines arrive.

“We should be ready pretty quickly when we get them,” said Benefis VP of Communication and Business Development Kaci Husted. “Probably the day we get them or the following day we’re hoping.”

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services estimated that the state will be in the “Limited Supply” Phase of vaccine distribution for about two months. After that, the vaccines are expected to become more widely available, though the exact timeline for that is still unknown.

If you have any questions about Montana’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, email them to me, at

There were 573 new COVID-19 cases reported in Montana as of Sunday morning, and the statewide death toll has reached 836, according to data compiled by MTN News during a 24-hour period.

The number of active cases in the state is currently 9,819, according to MTN News, and there has been a cumulative total of 73,544 cases of the virus in Montana. Of the total cases, 62,889 have recovered. There are currently 365 people hospitalized for treatment of the virus, and the cumulative number of hospitalizations is 3,080.

The number of tests performed in the state has reached 722,308, an increase of 3,806 during the previous 24-hour reporting period.

SOURCES: The numbers reported above reflect the latest data from the official Montana COVID website as well as supplemental data from county health departments. The disparity between numbers provided by the MT Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) and numbers from county health departments continues to grow as COVID cases escalate in Montana. MTN News uses both state data and county data to provide more accurate and timely information. As a result, numbers reported by MTN do not align with the DPHHS figures.

CONTEXT: Not every person who tests positive actually becomes ill or exhibits symptoms. Many do not; of those who do become sick, some experience mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. Others experience more severe symptoms, and some do require hospitalization. Every person who tests positive for COVID, however, has the potential to spread the virus to other people, including family members and friends, which is why public health officials continue to encourage everyone to wear a mask and maintain at least the recommended six feet of "social distance" when in public. The CDC released data in late August which emphasizes that people with contributing or chronic medical conditions are at much greater risk of dying from COVID-19. Click here to read more.