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Gianforte continues call for more COVID-19 vaccine doses from federal government

Gianforte COVID News Conference
Posted at 5:13 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-30 12:01:40-05

HELENA — As Montana approaches the milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 vaccinations administered, state leaders are increasing their calls for the federal government to provide more vaccines.

On Friday morning, state data showed more than 99,200 vaccine doses had been administered, with more than 24,500 people receiving both doses to be fully immunized.

Gianforte pointed to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing Montana has already administered about two-thirds of the doses it has received – one of the top rates in the country. However, Montana is near the bottom of the list for the amount of vaccine it has received per 100,000 population.

“We’re doing a terrific job, as the CDC data show, but we’re not being rewarded with an appropriate dose allocation from the federal government,” said Gianforte.

Next week, the federal government has allocated more than 15,600 first doses and 6,000 second doses for Montana. Gianforte said, after talking to hospitals and public health departments, he believes the state has the capacity to administer twice that number. He sent a letter to President Joe Biden this week, urging the administration to do all they can to increase availability.

“We need them,” he said. “We’ve proven that we can get shots into arms successfully, and it’s absolutely critical that we get more supply to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Dr. Greg Holzman, the state medical officer, said he’s optimistic the federal allocations will soon increase.

Leaders said the federal government informs the state on a Tuesday how many vaccine doses they can have for the following week. The state then works with local public health partners to determine where those vaccines are needed. By Friday, they make their order, telling federal authorities how many doses to deliver and where to send them.

Holzman said Montana has always ordered its full federal allotment.

Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn, executive director of Gianforte’s COVID-19 task force, said they have not received an explanation for how the federal government is determining each state’s vaccine allocation, or why Montana’s has been lower per capita than other states.

“It’s right now some art that we aren’t able to read into as to why we’re getting what we’re getting,” said Quinn.

Montana is currently in Phase 1B of its vaccination plan, with those 70 and older and people with underlying health conditions now eligible to receive the vaccine. Holzman recommended that people in those groups contact their local public health departments or vaccine center to find out what they will need to do to sign up for a first dose.

“It’s very important that we are completely honest with you all: That does not mean everyone that is in 1B will be able to get their vaccine next week,” he said. “We don’t have the supply for the demand that’s there, but it’s important for you to know how you can get the vaccine, to get on the list that may be available within your communities and know where to go to find that.”

You can find local contacts for vaccination information on the DPHHS website.

Holzman also said he’s hopeful about the progress on a new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which would require only a single shot. He said, if it is approved, it will make distribution much faster.

The state’s vaccination numbers do not include people who have been vaccinated through federal programs, such the Indian Health Service or the Montana VA Health Care System. Quinn said the IHS has administered about 5,200 first doses and 1,200 second doses.