Big Sky Roundup

Montana releases new COVID-19 vaccine requirements

By: - January 6, 2021 11:35 am

Cropped hand wearing a nitrile glove holding a Covid-19 vaccine vial and a syringe. (Photo by Getty Images.)

The new health requirements that will allow Montanans ages 16-69 with underlying conditions to receive expedited access to the COVID-19 vaccine have been released by the Department of Public Health & Human Services.

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced his new vaccination plan Tuesday at his first press conference as governor where he also said he plans to release the statewide mask mandate. With Gianforte’s new vaccination plan, phase 1A will not change and frontline healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities will be the top priority for the vaccination.

The change comes with phase 1B, which Gianforte announced will be composed of all Montanans more than 70 years old, Montanans ages 16-69 with underlying health conditions, and American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.

Montana has received 36,000 first doses of the vaccine and is slated to receive 41,000 more first doses, and as of Tuesday, 23,000 Montanans have received the vaccine, Gianforte said Tuesday. As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, 1,015 Montanans had died from COVID and 84,060 have been infected.

The new phase 1B accounts for about 250,000 Montanans, Gianforte said.The underlying health conditions for people ages 16-69 were announced Wednesday as:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 1 & 2 Diabetes mellitus
  • On a case by case basis, medical providers may include individuals with other conditions that place them at elevated risk for COVID-19-related complications.

It is anticipated that people who qualify for phase 1B will be able to begin receiving the vaccination in mid-January, according to DPHHS.

“This phase will likely take several months to complete as additional vaccines become available, so not everyone who is eligible will be vaccinated on day one of phase 1B,” according to the FAQ section of the updated vaccination plan.

Gianforte’s plan will bump frontline essential workers like teachers and first responders to phase 1C. Phase 1C will now include frontline essential workers, Montanans more than 60 years old, individuals residing in congregate care and correctional facilities, and people ages 16-59 with medical conditions not included in phase 1B that may have an elevated-risk of COVID-19 complications.

Those conditions include:

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)

Phase two will account for all Montanans ages 16 and older.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. Keith is no longer a reporter with the Daily Montanan.