ST. IGNATIUS — On Friday, the Tribal Health Department hosted a COVID-19 Vaccine Symposium on Facebook to update folks on its vaccination effort. Participants in the symposium included THD Medical Director Dr. Bernadette Corum, Community Health Division Director Chelsea Kleinmeyer, Behavioral Health Director Dr. Desiree Fox and Pharmacy Division Director Dr. Jessi Cahoon
Presently, the THD Pharmacy is allocated 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine a week from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. The state supply is limited and distribution has been haphazard and that has caused problems with scheduling vaccinations throughout the state and that affects THD. It is the same nationally.
Last week, Gov. Greg Gianforte asked the President Joe Biden administration to provide the state with more vaccines and a predictable supply chain so the state could better proceed with its vaccination plan. He also received federal approval to redirect 19,500 unused vaccine doses to be used to vaccinate high risk people.
Montana moved into Phase 1b of its vaccination distribution plan on January 19 that focuses on vaccinating people 70 years of age and older, 16 years of age and older with a high-risk underlying medical condition, and Native Americans and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.
The present THD focus is on Elders 70 years of age and older, and people with pre-existing conditions as part of its vaccination distribution plan. THD can peruse its records to identify people in the priority category and can contact them to schedule them for vaccinations.
At this point THD is vaccinating people at two locations, one at the KwaTaqNuk Resort and Casino in Polson and the other at the THD Fitness Center in St. Ignatius.
THD has inoculated more that 1,100 people with the first dose of Moderna and 300 with the second dose. The Moderna vaccine requires two doses approximately 28 days apart.
Kleinmeyer said people who received the first dose of Moderna are “guaranteed” a second dose.
Dr. Corum advised folks to be proactive in getting vaccinated and in taking precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. She said the vaccines are safe but do have some minor side effects that include fever, headache and muscle aches that usually dissipate within 24 to 48 hours after inoculation.
There are approximately 12,000 people on the Flathead Reservation, and as of last week about three percent of them have been vaccinated.
The bottom line is that individuals should take personal responsibility for their actions that limit the spread of COVID-19, and to lessen the risk of getting it. Wear a mask, social distance and wash hands. People should also limit public exposure. The reason is COVID-19 is leading the dance.
A highly transmissible variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom has now rapidly spread in the United States. It is significantly more transmittable than any other variant that has previously made inroads into the US. So far, the variant has not been detected in Montana. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 611 cases in 33 states but added that the number could be much higher.
Last month, the CDC model predicted the UK strain could overtake all other strains in the US by March and that it was 50 percent more transmissible.
Early research has indicated the UK variant does not impact the efficacy of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.