ST. IGNATIUS — On Wednesday (January 6) the Tribal Health Department made a special effort to vaccinate Elder THD beneficiaries 75 years and older with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the THD clinics in St. Ignatius and Polson. Tribal Health is presently vaccinating beneficiaries 70 years old and up.
THD Pharmacy Director Jesse Cahoon, said THD contacted the Elders prior to the vaccination effort to schedule them at 10-minute intervals. The St. Ignatius Clinic had three vaccination stations that were busy with steady traffic throughout the morning. The first in line, so to speak, were the fluent speakers of the Salish and Kootenai language.
The Moderna vaccine is administered in a two-shot regimen 28-days apart. It will take from 10 to 14 days for the vaccination to take hold and at that point it would be 70 percent effective. The second dose taken 28 days later will take about 14 days to become fully effective at 94 percent.
Cahoon said the THD will generally follow the Montana Department of Health and Human Services schedule for vaccination of the state’s population. The Flathead Nation and the Crow Nation get their COVID-19 vaccines from DPHHS, while the remaining six Tribal Nations get theirs from the Indian Health Service.
However, Cahoon noted that the vaccine schedule has been fluid, and Republican Governor Greg Gianforte has released his COVID-19 protocols that differs from the DPHHS. Also this Tuesday, the Trump administration announced that it wants all people 65 and over and those with pre-existing health problems to be to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
A huge factor affecting the vaccination schedule is the availability of the vaccines which has hit a speed bump with supply delivery limitations.
Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are not being offered to the general public. However, Tribal Health is identifying patients in the prioritized groups and will contact people who are eligible to get the vaccination.
“There are limited amounts of vaccines available, and this is why the state plan prioritizes the most vulnerable groups that should be vaccinated immediately,” Cahoon said.
THD has trained 10 nurses and six pharmacists to administer vaccinations that will grease the wheel in the overall vaccination effort when the amount of vaccine meets the demand.
“There are frustrations. We want to vaccinate 200 to 400 people a day but the supply dictates how fast we can move,” Cahoon said. “Everyone here at Tribal Health is doing the best we can.”
The incoming Biden Administration, due to start on January 20, has set a goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in 100 days against COVID-19.
With the barrage of bad news surrounding COVID-19, it’s hard to imagine silver linings with the pandemic. However, a recent announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could add a dash of silver to the dire viral situation the nation is presently in.
During the 2019 flu season from Sept. 29 to Dec. 28, the CDC reported more than 65,000 cases of influenza nationwide. During the same period this flu season, the agency reported 1,016 cases.
The CDC health experts said that high vaccination rates against the flu – combined with social distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing employed to stop the spread of the coronavirus – played a huge role in preventing influenza transmission.
In early October, THD and Lake County Public Health Department conducted a drive-through flu vaccination at Salish Kootenai College in an attempt to blunt the potential of health complications of getting a double whammy of flu and COVID-19.
“It’s always important to get a flu shot but this year it’s really, really important,” said event coordinator Kriss Murphy, THD Community Health nurse at the flu vaccination event. “The CDC recommends that people get a flu shot as soon as possible. The state (Department of Public Health and Human Services/DPHHS) is also recommending early vaccination to decrease the flu cases.”
As of Dec. 25, more than 192 million doses of flu vaccine had been distributed, which according to the CDC is the highest number of doses distributed in the U.S. in a single flu season. The CDC recommends those who haven’t gotten a flu shot to get one because the flu season is not over.
The flu season usually ends in the spring. CDC is suggesting that it could last to May this year. Unfortunately, COVID-19 seems to not have an off season.
For more information related to COVID-19 vaccination visit the THD Facebook page, or to sign up for constant information contact, visit the THD webpage at www.cskthealth.org