BILLINGS — Last Friday, RiverStone Health estimates 50 people showed up to their COVID-19 vaccine clinic to get their first or second dose. Monday's clinic at MSUB's City College was a very different story.
Four RiverStone Health workers, two hours, zero patients - and that's been more the norm.
“(The MSUB clinics) have been somewhat successful, but not as successful as we have hoped," said Greg Neill, RiverStone's Emergency Response Manager. "At the beginning of summer, the numbers were up a little bit. We were seeing 20-30 people. Numbers are down now.”
Things are even tougher for healthcare workers on campus.
“We’ve met a little bit of vaccine hesitancy, so we’re trying to combat that by giving the best information possible," said Jessie Reddick, MSUB's Student Health and Wellness Specialist.
Montana’s Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education abolished the university’s mask mandate in May and is very strict about what campus healthcare workers are, and more specifically are not, allowed to ask students. Reddick is doing everything she can. Her latest idea? Symptom management bags, to combat the No. 1 vaccine hesitancy issue she hears.
“They’re worried about, ‘How am I going to feel after I get the shot?’" Reddick said. "So in each bag, you’ll find a water, as well as more hydration - there’s tea and Propel. We've included information our nurse compiled, and they also will get $20 in Town Pump gift cards for getting their shot.”
It was one of Montana’s early vaccine incentives.
Reddick says MSUB has also applied for a Campus COVID Vaccine Initiative grant, to fund social media campaigns, student talks, and research materials. But that’s just a waiting game for now, like most of her efforts.
“There has been a lot of expression that (students) would prefer to get it the day before classes start," she said. "Just another thing to check off to make sure they’re ready to go for college.”
As for the greater community, with Yellowstone County still sitting at a 40 percent vaccination rate, Riverstone worries they’ve done all they can.
“People who’ve decided not to get the vaccine aren’t coming," Neill said.
Riverstone has a number of free COVID vaccine clinics set to come this week, all available to the general public:
August 3 - MSUB’s Petro Theater, 11am-1pm
August 3 - Huntley Project Schools, 4-6pm
August 4 - Our Savior Lutheran Church, Laurel - 10am-12pm
August 6 - Skypoint during Artwalk, 5:30-7:30pm