Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton said Friday he expects the county to shift to phase B1 Covid-19 vaccinations as soon as next week. And, at the same time, Felton says there are between 45,000 and 50,000 Yellowstone County residents in the second tier, so patience is necessary.
“The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still a pretty long tunnel,” he said.
This means vaccination will move from Tier 1A (healthcare workers, first responders and long-term care facility workers and residents) to the next group. Phase 1B includes people over 70, people 16-60 with high-risk medical conditions, American Indians and other people of color at elevated risk for Covid-19 complications.
Felton says it’s going to take months to work through the second tier.
“We have a really simple supply and demand problem here. And that is that the demand is much, much greater than the supply,” he said.
Initially, communication will come out early each week as for how many doses are available, where they’re available, and how residents can access them. Felton expects the vaccine supply will stabilize over time, and health officials will be able to give people more advanced notice when the vaccines will be available.
Due to concern of Covid-19 spread, and a need to monitor patients for a short time after vaccination, the appointments will need to be scheduled. Eligible residents will go to registration sites to make an appointment.
Felton says local hospitals and clinics have been inundated with calls from people wondering when they can be vaccinated. The mass vaccine plan initially works through RiverStone Health, Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare, but once supply increases, the plan includes other community sites as well.
But even then, Felton stresses patience. He says for the first few weeks of Phase 1B there will be different people getting the vaccine every day. At weeks three and four, people will be coming back for their second vaccine, as others are still receiving their first dose.
Felton also wants to clarify, that there are no master signup lists to get vaccinated. Once the plans are released next week, those eligible, when, where and how, will be communicated on KTVQ and other media outlets, as well as the RiverStone Health website.