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Clinic hours will expand to meet vaccine demand

by KIANNA GARDNER
Daily Inter Lake | March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

In response to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s recent announcement that all Montanans ages 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning in April, the Flathead City-County Health Department will expand its vaccination clinic hours.

Starting April 1, the health department, in partnership with Kalispell Regional Healthcare, will hold weekly vaccine clinics by appointment only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Flathead County Fairgrounds.

A news release states the clinics will vaccinate approximately 1,000 individuals each day, though that will depend on how many doses Flathead County continues to receive.

In addition, North Valley Hospital will host appointment-only clinics on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Grouse Mountain Conference Center in Whitefish in order to better accommodate people in that area.

Between now and April 1, doses will continue to be administered to eligible Tier 1A, Tier 1B and Tier 1B+ residents. Once the eligibility pool is opened up to Montanans 16 and older, Flathead County will strive to continue to prioritize individuals 60 and older and those with underlying health conditions as they are most at-risk of developing severe complications from the virus.

“Our next focus will be vaccinating those who are the highest risk of exposure to the virus, such as educators and food-service workers,” Flathead City-County Health Department Health Officer Joe Russell said. “Moving forward, we will work hard to efficiently vaccinate the Flathead County workforce, providing protection to a highly susceptible population in our community.”

All individuals that are interested and eligible to be vaccinated should add their name to the COVID-19 vaccination list by using the health department’s online vaccine request form. The form can be found at https://www.flatheadhealth.org/vaccine-request-form/

According to the news release, Flathead County is currently receiving allocations of all three vaccines: Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. However, due to varying vaccine supply, individuals who select a specific vaccine manufacturer on their submitted form may experience extended wait times before the specified vaccine becomes available.

Regardless of one’s preferred manufacturer, it may take several weeks for individuals to receive an appointment scheduling call due to the high demand for vaccines the health department is experiencing.

“The vaccine is a critical public health tool, and we are excited for the opportunity to vaccinate our community,” Russell said. “With that being said, the vaccine administration process is a marathon not a sprint, and we ask the public for their continued patience over the next several months as we work to vaccinate all who are interested.”