HELENA — While the number of active COVID-19 cases has started to drop again in Lewis and Clark County, a group of community members is still working to encourage people to think about getting vaccinated.
“I think it’s a reasonable assumption that people will think it’s over – it’s not over,” said Dave Lewis.
Lewis is one of a number of local residents involved with a vaccine awareness campaign: It’s Your Move Montana. The campaign includes a website, along with TV, print and radio ads and other promotion to encourage people to ask questions about the vaccine.
“This is a very serious decision people have to make, and they need information to do that,” said Lewis. “We don’t like mandates in Montana – I don’t think they work – but we need people to be informed so they can make reasonable decisions on their own.”
The goal is to reach people who haven’t gotten the shot yet, in a respectful and non-judgmental way. One of their efforts is the “Text a Local” program. By sending a message to (406) 470-8700, people can begin an anonymous and confidential conversation with volunteers – mostly retired health care workers from the area. Their hope is that, by answering questions and concerns directly, they can convince more people to think about getting vaccinated.
“There are no bad questions,” said Lewis.
According to the Lewis and Clark Public Health online COVID-19 hub, 46,056 county residents are at least partially vaccinated – about 69% of the eligible population. 41,241 – or about 62% – are fully vaccinated. 18,927 booster shots have been administered, enough to cover 34% of those 18 and older.
The percentage of people vaccinated has continued to increase over the last few months, though relatively slowly.
Lewis said, though case numbers are falling, he’s still hearing about people he knows dying of COVID. He said it’s important to emphasize the vaccine still appears to be the best way to prevent severe COVID-related illness.
“It’s a serious issue,” he said. “Yes, the number of cases is dropping, but we still have to get those vaccinations and try to stop this.”
The It’s Your Move Montana website includes answers to many frequently asked questions, including about the vaccine’s approval process, potential side effects and whether vaccine status would be private. It also offers data showing some prominent side effects – like myocarditis, blood clots and sexual dysfunction – have been seen more in COVID patients than in those who got the vaccine.
The campaign has received funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, through a partnership with Lewis and Clark Public Health.