GREAT FALLS — The Cascade City-County Health Department, Alluvion Health, Great Falls Clinic, and Benefis Health System are teaming up to begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to community members age 70 and older.
“This is such a huge undertaking, this isn’t something that I think any one of us could accomplish on our own. So it was really a matter of the various organizations coming together, combining resources, combining forces and figuring out the most efficient way to try to make this happen,” said Kaci Husten of Benefis Health System. Husted wasn’t sure at this point if the vaccines doses would be from Pfizer or Moderna. “It very well could be a mix,” said Husted.
At this time, the government is covering the cost of the vaccine so there is no cost to the patient/recipient. Signing up to receive the vaccine is voluntary - there is no government mandate or law that requires members of the public to receive the vaccine.
Husted provided the following information:
Who: Montana’s 1B vaccination tier has been defined to include anyone who is age 70 or older or meets certain other health criteria. However, given that the number of Cascade County residents who fall into tier 1B currently exceeds vaccine supply, we are limiting vaccine administration to only those who are age 70 and older at this time.
When: At 9 a.m. Thursday, January 21, we will open 1,500 slots for vaccines to be scheduled.
- These slots will be for appointments on Monday, January 25, Wednesday, January 27, and Friday, January 29 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Slots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so community members who are eligible should go online to schedule as soon as possible to secure their slots.
How: Appointments must be scheduled online by clicking here: Benefis.org/COVIDvaccine. If you do not have access to a computer, please call 406-455-2500 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 21. You will be required to provide a valid email address to book your appointment, regardless of whether you schedule online or via phone.
- The vaccine consists of two doses. You will be scheduled for your second dose at the time your first dose is administered. Second doses will occur three to five weeks after first doses, so please anticipate your future availability when scheduling your first dose.
- If you do not arrive as scheduled for either your first or second dose appointment, your appointment will not be automatically rescheduled.
- You will not be permitted to schedule your second vaccine dose online yourself.
Where: Vaccinations will take place at Montana ExpoPark’s Family Living Center, 400 3rd Street NW in Great Falls. It is not, however, a drive-through event.
- You must preschedule an appointment to receive the vaccine. If you do not have an appointment, you will be turned away.
- You must present a valid form of identification at the scheduled time of your vaccine. If your identification indicates that you are not age 70 or older, you will be turned away even if you have an appointment.
Benefis said they expect it will take four weeks to administer the first dose of the two-dose vaccine to everyone who falls into tier 1B. Future vaccination dates, times, and number of available slots will be published as they are available.
The CCHD also said in a news release:
- Please refrain from calling health care providers at CCHD, Benefis Health System, Alluvion Health, and Great Falls Clinic to try and get an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination. For those who qualify, please make every attempt to schedule online and know that you will not be able to make an appointment until the portal (www.benefis.org/covidvaccine) opens on Thursday, 1/21, at 9 AM.
- There will be NO EXCEPTIONS to this age rule due to limited vaccine supply. If you are not able to get an appointment when the portal opens on Thursday, do not show up at these agencies or call your doctor to see if they can get you in.
- At this time, only people who are age 70+ can receive the vaccine because our county’s supply is currently very limited. Individuals in this age group will only be able to receive the vaccine at the upcoming joint vaccination clinics at the Montana ExpoPark--not from their doctor or at other upcoming health care appointments.
- We know that there are many people in Cascade County who are age 16-69 with health conditions that qualify them for vaccination in tier 1B. We are working very hard to make sure that you get vaccinated as soon as possible! However, at this time, we are starting with individuals who are 70 or older, and we will not be able to make exceptions due to limited supply. This policy was developed in consultation with the State and is the same at CCHD, Benefis, Alluvion, and Great Falls Clinic, without exceptions.
Benefis says that common side effects after vaccination may include:
- Swelling or redness where the vaccine was administered
- Muscle and joint achiness elsewhere
- Low-grade fever
These side effects are expected and not serious. Anyone with questions about whether they should receive the vaccine is encouraged to talk directly with their physician or other healthcare provider.