Covid-19 vaccines slow to arrive, but trickling in the door
State health department to start new tracking dashboards
A nurse holds a vial of COVID-19 vaccine and syringe. (Photo by Getty Images)
If you’ve been waiting for a Covid-19 vaccination because some hospitals and pharmacies have seen delays getting product, a light might be flickering at the end of the tunnel.
Friday, Kylie Rauch, director of operations for Granite Pharmacy, said some doctors’ offices and clinics have faced unforeseen hurdles getting their orders filled.
But she believes the supply chain logistics, including a new ordering process, are close to being worked out. In the meantime, she requested people’s patience.
“There will be supply available for people, whether it’s today or a couple weeks from now,” Rauch said.
This fall is the third with Covid-19, with a recent uptick in hospitalizations nationwide as reported by U.S. News and World Report, and responses to the infections have shifted.
The delays this season come from the change from government supply during the pandemic to commercial supply, according to Rauch and an infectious disease doctor at Billings Clinic.
Reporting on Covid-19 data has changed as well. In May, around the same time the federal public health emergency ended, the state Department of Public Health and Human Services stopped running its Covid-19 dashboard, which tracked cases.
However, Friday, DPHHS spokesperson Jon Ebelt said the department will start publishing new dashboards next month.
“DPHHS will be publishing new interactive dashboards for COVID-19, influenza, and RSV data in October of this year on the DPHHS website,” Ebelt said in an email. “These dashboards will be updated weekly to ensure that Montanan’s have the most up-to-date data about these respiratory illnesses.”
He said the dashboards will summarize the total number of reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths. A lot of people no longer report cases, but Ebelt said those three measures together help indicate disease severity and impact.
Dr. Neil Ku, with Billings Clinic, said Friday it’s hard to predict what the next season will look like, in part because good data is hard to come by.
Even when the state previously was collecting data, he said many people who tested at home wouldn’t report results. Now, he said some people don’t even bother to test. (Every household can order four free Covid-19 tests online.)
However, Ku said medical providers are preparing for Covid, influenza and RSV. He said the nation is seeing a “slow creep” of RSV in particular, more of a problem for kids.
An RSV vaccine for adults is recently available.
At this point, Ku said the clinic has seen hospitalizations due to Covid staying generally in the single digits — compared to more than 100 in early 2022.
A week and a half ago, Ku said the clinic counted 13 hospitalizations. He said the clinic has seen just seven and then nine hospitalizations the last couple of days.
However, he said it doesn’t mean most of the cases are mild. In fact, he said three patients Friday were in the intensive care unit.
“So there’s still people who are getting hospitalized with severe illness, and those are the ones with the risk factors for severe illness too,” Ku said.
He said the strain is likely the XBB variant, the latest version of Omicron, based on national data; the state recently requested health labs to submit variants for sequencing, and he said he anticipates a report will be available soon.
He also said one challenge recently has been the lack of available vaccines — medical providers encourage patients to get vaccinated, but then patients can’t get supplies.
However, Ku also said he believes CVS and Walgreens have supplies.
Granite Pharmacy, which serves locations in western Montana, received 50 Pfizer doses last week, and Rauch said they were a hot item.
“Those obviously flew out the door. We were able to get 30 today,” she said.
She anticipated patients would sign up for all of those doses within a matter of hours.
Rauch also said she anticipates health care systems will soon see a more consistent supply.
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