HELENA — Lewis and Clark County has reached a milestone, as more than half of the people eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19 have received at least their first dose.
Lewis and Clark Public Health made the announcement Friday. More than 28,000 people have now had their first vaccine dose, out of about 56,000 county residents age 16 or older. About 18,000 people – nearly a third of those eligible – have been fully vaccinated.
So far, the local vaccination effort has been centered around large drive-thru clinics at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds. However, leaders announced last week that they will start shifting to smaller, more targeted clinics.
One of those efforts is the Care Van program, operated by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana and its Caring Foundation of Montana. Over the last few months, they have been using the van to provide mobile vaccine clinics at assisted living facilities and in communities like Lincoln and Augusta. Now, they are also adding “pop-up” clinics aimed at the general public.
“These mobile clinics are really trying to target those individuals who may be a little hesitant and haven’t been able to make it out to the Fairgrounds or other vaccine providers,” said Kami Kirchberg, the Care Van administrator. “We take away the barrier of transportation and time – we’re right there, have the forms.”
On Friday morning, they administered vaccines at Power Townsend. They then set up a clinic on the Helena Walking Mall, near Ten Mile Creek Brewery, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. No registration was necessary.
The supply of vaccines has now increased enough that they can meet the walk-up demand at this type of clinic. Kirchberg hopes that means they will be able to reach a broader range of people.
“To be able to hear everyone’s stories of resiliency over the past year and hear that they’re now going to be able to hug their grandparents or their grandbabies has been so powerful,” she said. “We hope that more people continue to get vaccinated, so we that we can start having that connection that we’re all craving so much.”
In total, Kirchberg said the Care Van program has held about 35 clinics and vaccinated about 1,200 people so far.
Lewis and Clark Public Health says, if the current rate of vaccinations continues, 70% of eligible people in the county will have their first dose by mid-May.