Health care officials in Ravalli County are making the final preparations for a second large COVID-19 vaccination clinic Saturday while looking forward to setting up a third.
At the same time, the first 300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson are expected to arrive in the county either later this week or early next week.
All of this comes at a time when some of the vaccine providers are getting close to working through their lists of people under the 1B category that have signed up for the vaccine.
“It’s not like they are down in the tens, but some have only a couple hundred left on their lists,” said Ravalli County Office of Emergency Management Director Eric Hoover. “If there is anybody in that 1B category that’s not yet registered with a provider who wants the vaccine, we’re asking them to reach out and get on a list.”
On Saturday, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital will host its second large clinic to provide the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to 975 people. The clinic will again be held at the Bitterroot Physician’s Clinic, 1200 Westwood Drive in Hamilton. Vaccine recipients are asked to return at the same time they received their first dose on Feb. 13.
Ravalli County Public Health learned this week the county would receive a second tray of a little over 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, Hoover said Tuesday.
“There is likely to be another mass event like what we’ve had at the hospital,” he said. “The challenge we face is that since we’re having one this Saturday, we don’t know if the hospital and volunteers will be able to do another back to back.”
The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage. The Hamilton hospital is the only medical facility that is equipped to store the vaccine.
Most of the vaccine the county has received has been Moderna, which comes in 100-dose trays that can be distributed to other providers in other parts of the county. The Moderna vaccine doesn’t require ultra-cold storage.
“We are excited to get the Pfizer vaccine, but it is a little bit more of a challenge to distribute,” Hoover said. “We are going to discuss having another site in the north valley. We should have an idea by the end of the week on when that will roll out.”
Ravalli County Public Health and two other providers in the county will receive the first shipment of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Hoover said the county hasn’t received any guidance on how that should be distributed yet. Since there is a difference in the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson with the other two approved vaccines, “we want to make sure that we're giving it out to the best audience and where it will be most effective.”
“We don’t want to force people to take the Johnson & Johnson as their only option if they don’t want it,” Hoover said. “That is just the county’s perspective. Each provider will have their own process.”
The public health department does plan to reach out to people in the 1A category who haven’t yet been vaccinated to see if they would be interested in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
On Tuesday, the state announced it will shift from the 1B to 1B+ on March 8. The new category includes people aged 60 and older and expands the number of medical conditions that qualify, including asthma, cerebrovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, immunocompromised state, neurologic conditions, liver disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and Thalassemia.