Big Sky Roundup

Montana to open vaccine eligibility to 16 and older starting April 1

By: - March 16, 2021 2:56 pm

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

Greg Gianforte at his first press conference on Jan. 5, 2021 (Photo by Keith Schubert of the Daily Montanan).

Montana announced Tuesday that everyone 16 years and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 1, beating the federal deadline by one month.

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced the expanded eligibility at a press conference Tuesday. You do not need a Montana state ID to receive the vaccine.

On March 8, Montana entered Phase 1B+ of its vaccination distribution plan, which expanded its list of qualifying underlying conditions for those from 16 to 59 years old and everyone 60 and older. Gianforte said that the population that made up Phase 1B+ accounted for 90 percent of COVID deaths in the state and 70 percent of hospitalizations.

Gen. Matt Quinn, executive director of Gov. Gianforte’s COVID-19 Task Force, estimated that by mid-May, all Montanans who want the vaccine will have gotten it, which is on track with national trends. 

As of Tuesday, Montana had administered 367,211 first doses and fully immunized 142,490.

Last week, President Joe Biden said that all Americans 16 and older should be eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

“Our approach is working,” said Gianforte, a Republican. Citing that for the first time since July 13, the state is under 900 active cases. A few months ago, projections showed the state wouldn’t be ready to vaccinate everyone 16 years and older until late July, he said. Right now, Gianforte said, about 16 percent of the state’s population is fully immunized.

The country will receive 16 million doses next week, which will increase to 22 million per week, Gianforte said.

“That’s why we’re expanding distribution and making the vaccine available to all Montanans, beating the national deadline and doing it April 1.”

While state health officials are working with counties to increase the locations where people can receive the vaccine, Quinn said vaccines coming into the state is a limiting factor.

“There’s a total of about 400 partners that we’re looking to expand vaccine availability to across the state of Montana who have indicated a willingness to help get shots in arms of Montana, and so as soon as vaccine quantity gets to the state, we’ll keep turning those providers on,” Quinn said.

Local vaccine distribution registration and locations can be found here.

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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.