BILLINGS — The first COVID-19 vaccines in Billings will be administered Tuesday afternoon at a 2 p.m. clinic inside the Mansfield Health Education Center on the St. Vincent Healthcare campus, after St. Vincent received its initial 975-dose container early Monday morning.
The shipment arrived at the hospital around 8 a.m., and vials were quickly moved into an ultra-cold freezer, which St. Vincent purchased for this specific purpose. Pfizer's vaccine must be kept at a -70 degrees Celsius temperature or colder to remain viable.
Dr. Michael Bush, St. Vincent's chief medical officer, was surprised the shipment was even going to be arriving this week, let alone that his facility would be the first in Montana to receive it.
"To be honest with you, if you went back a month or so, I would have said this was way quicker than I expected," Bush said.
St. Vincent will begin its vaccination process with frontline healthcare workers - those with the greatest risk of coming in contact with the virus - per state and federal guidelines.
"We'll be starting with those people that are actively taking care of COVID patients, are in and out of the COVID room, such as our environmental services people, the emergency department, the ICU," Bush said. "They will be first people up to receive the vaccine. But given the quantity of vaccine we have, we'll rapidly move into our tier two distribution lists."
The 975 vials are all earmarked as first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires a second dose 21 days after the initial shot to achieve full efficacy.
"The state has guaranteed that those that we give the first dose to will get the second dose at the appropriate time," Bush said.
There's been significant push-back across the country from those who say they're not comfortable with taking the vaccine at this point. Bush said he expects most of his staff to take the vaccine, including himself.
"I believe that we indeed will have a majority that will take the vaccine. I will be first in line when my name is called."