HELENA — Although Montana is a vast, rural state, it is performing better than the majority of the country for vaccination efforts.
As of Monday, 181,572 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the state. 52,453 Montanans are considered fully vaccinated having received their second dose, which is roughly 4.9 percent of the population of the state.
Montana ranks 16th among all states for full vaccination. Neighboring states of North Dakota and South Dakota have a larger percentage of their population vaccinated, sitting at 6.2 percent and 5.7 percent respectively. North Dakota is currently third in the nation for states that have fully vaccinated their population while South Dakota is ranked fifth. Idaho is ranked 48th in the nation for fully vaccinated population at just 3.2 percent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have yet to officially release what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity against COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease official, has estimated that herd immunity could need from 70 to more than 90 percent of the population vaccinated.
According to state and local officials, the biggest challenge for Montana’s vaccination performance right now is the federal vaccination doses.
“Despite the great progress we’re making, we aren’t receiving adequate doses from the federal government. Unfortunately, Montana continues to receive one of the lowest allotments of doses per capita in the country,” said Gov. Greg Gianforte in a Feb. 2 COVID-19 press conference.
Montana ranks 45th among states in terms of vaccines allocated, per capita, by the federal government.
Montana first began releasing a compiled version of its COVID vaccination data on Jan. 19. The total number of doses given has slowly increased over the past month, with the week of Feb. 9 through Feb. 15 resulting in 41,502 doses administered.
State and local health care experts say Montana could realistically be administering at least twice if not three times the number of doses, were they those shots made available to them.
Gianforte has called upon President Joe Biden to increase the number of doses the state receives each week.
“This week Montana administered 8,000 doses in one day, roughly half of our weekly federal supply of first doses. We are prepared to administer at least three times as many doses than our current allocation,” Gianforte wrote in a letter to the president.
However, Gianforte is far from alone in his call for more vaccine doses. Most governors have now called upon the federal government for more doses to be sent to their state. The problem is there just isn’t the vaccination supply to meet the enormous demand.
Both Moderna and Pfizer are reportedly producing their vaccines at full capacity, which is between 12 to 18 million doses a week. There is no significant reserve of vaccine doses to speak of and right now, vaccines are being shipped out as they are manufactured.
There is some light on the horizon though. Johnson and Johnson has asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency Emergency Use Authorization of its single shot vaccine. The company is expected to receive approval by the end of February.
The Johnson and Johnson single-shot vaccine will greatly increase the number of individuals vaccinated each week. However, data from the company has indicated it has a 66 percent efficacy rate, which is far less than that of the Moderna and Pfizer two-dose vaccines that are both over 90 percent efficacy.