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Montana Health Department Details Revised Eligibility For Next Phase Of COVID-19 Vaccinations

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine ready for administration at Guy's Hospital in London on Tuesday.
Victoria Jones/Pool
Getty Images
A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine ready for administration at Guy's Hospital in London on Tuesday.

The Montana health department Wednesday clarified who will be eligible next for the COVID-19 vaccine under the state’s revised distribution plan.

The State Health Department released a list of health conditions that qualify individuals to receive the vaccine in Phase 1B, set to begin later this month after healthcare workers are vaccinated.

Eligible health conditions include: cancer, Type 1 and 2 diabetes, heart conditions, severe obesity, COPD, Down Syndrome, immunocompromised state from a solid organ transplant, chronic kidney disease and sickle cell disease.

The new plan also allows medical providers to include individuals with other medical conditions on a case by case basis.

Phase 1B also includes all Montanans over the age of 70, along with Native Americans and other people of color who may have higher risk for COVID complications.

The changes announced by Gov. Greg Gianforte effectively bump frontline essential workers, such as teachers, first responders and grocery store employees, along with those in congregate care and correctional facilities, to Phase 1C if they don’t have the eligible health conditions for Phase 1B.

Barbara Schneeman, RiverStone Health’s public information officer, says Yellowstone County began reworking its vaccination plan immediately after receiving official documentation of the changes Wednesday morning.

"We are hard at work revising our plans. But I can also tell you that with the unpredictability of vaccine supply it's going to be a little rocky at the beginning," Schneeman said.

Gianforte said Tuesday the changes mean about 250,000 people will be vaccinated in Phase 1B, as opposed to the original 90,000.

The changes to Montana’s vaccination plan departs from CDC guidance, which prioritize frontline workers due to infection risks they face at work.

Montana confirmed 602 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, as well as ten new deaths. 1,015 Montanans have died from the coronavirus during the pandemic.

Kaitlyn Nicholas is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America tribal affairs reporter.

Kaitlyn Nicholas covers tribal news in Montana.