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COVID-19

Yellowstone County Makes All Residents Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine ready for administration at Guy's Hospital in London.
A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine ready for administration at Guy's Hospital in London.

Yellowstone County is opening COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults age 16 and older this week. It’s one of the first large counties in Montana to take this step.

Riverstone Health, the county’s health department, announced Tuesday morning that about 1,000 appointments to receive the free vaccine were unclaimed by residents in priority groups, leading the county to expand eligibility.

“The most important thing is to get the vaccine into arms. So we worked with our state partners to get the OK and open it up," said Health Officer John Felton.

Felton said about 70% of the available slots this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday filled up within four hours of expanding eligibility.

The state health department estimates nearly 128,000 Yellowstone County residents are eligible for the vaccine and about 20% of those eligible have been fully vaccinated. Yellowstone County health officials say at least 70% of residents need to be immunized to achieve community protection.

Appointments for the free vaccine clinics at Cedar Hall at MetraPark are required and can be made at mtreadyclinic.org. Masks are required.

Vaccine clinics are organized by Yellowstone County Unified Health Command, which asks vaccine recipients to remain in their vehicle until five minutes before their scheduled appointment. Recipients will need to remain at the clinic for observation for 15 minutes after vaccination. People with histories of certain allergic reactions will need to stay 30 minutes.

An appointment for the second dose, scheduled three weeks after the first, will be made at the time of the first dose. Second doses are given at the Shrine Auditorium at 1125 Broadwater Ave.

The state will move into Phase 2 of its vaccination plan Apr. 1, making all Montanans aged 16 and older eligible to receive the vaccine.

The Montana state health department Tuesday announced 348 new cases of COVID-19, a sharp increase in a daily total compared to the last two months. A spokesperson says cases reported out of Cascade and Big Horn counties were primarily data reconciliation dating back to October, November and December but the 65 cases from Gallatin County are new.