GREAT FALLS — The Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) has been selected to lead a national VHA pilot program to bring vaccines to veterans living in rural areas. On the morning of January 21, a vaccination team will fly doses of the Moderna vaccine in special plug-in coolers from Fort Harrison’s ultracold on-site freezer to Havre. Veterans in the Havre area who are enrolled in VHA healthcare will be able to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
MTVAHCS said in a news release that staff has begun calling eligible enrolled veterans to schedule vaccine appointments for the January 21 Havre vaccination event based on risk assessments. The vaccines are free and require two doses, given 28 days apart. Veterans will be scheduled for their second dose at their first appointment. All veterans who receive a vaccine will be closely monitored for reactions, side effects, or adverse events.
The vaccination event will be held in the former Herberger’s building at Havre’s Holiday Village Mall. All veterans will be screened for COVID-19 before entering the building and must wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth.
“Over 60% of MTVAHCS staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine so far,” said MTVAHCS Chief of Staff Dr. JP Maganito. “Our staff choose to get this vaccine to protect themselves, their patients, their loved ones, and their communities. This vaccine is safe, effective, and is necessary for us all to help establish herd immunity and finally end this pandemic.”
Vaccines are available by appointment only to veterans who are enrolled in VHA healthcare. Any veteran who is not enrolled is encouraged to call 406-447-7350 to find out if they are eligible. Unenrolled veterans are encouraged to call as soon as possible. If a veteran meets eligibility requirements, they may be able to receive the vaccine on January 21.
At this time, MTVAHCS is planning to conduct several vaccination events around the state and will call veterans to schedule appointments. MTVAHCS staff have begun calling eligible enrolled veterans to schedule vaccine appointments this week for Fort Harrison and Missoula’s first veteran vaccination events. MTVAHCS will continue to administer COVID-19 vaccines until all enrolled veterans who want to receive the vaccine have been immunized.
High-risk veterans will be contacted first followed by all other veterans who want a vaccine. High-risk veterans are identified as persons 75 years or older and any veteran who has a medical condition that may put them at increased risk based on CDC risk criteria and VHA guidance.