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As Demand Drops, Flathead County To Close Mass Vaccination Clinic

A staffer at a Flathead County vaccine clinic fills a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021.
Aaron Bolton
A staffer at a Flathead County vaccine clinic fills a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021.

Flathead County health officials say they will shut down a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the county fairgrounds next week, but vaccines will still be available.

About 36% of the eligible population in Flathead County has been fully vaccinated, according to state data. Statewide, 45% of eligible Montanans have received both of their shots.

According to COVID ActNow, Flathead County vaccination rates began to slow in mid-April, but really began to taper off late last month. Flathead County Health Officer Joe Russell says the county can handle the current demand for COVID-19 vaccines at its normal clinical offices. 

“We’re averaging somewhere around 50, 60 new appointments, first-doses a week,” Russell says.

Russell says they will offer vaccines weekly and shots are also available at local pharmacies and health care provider offices. Many counties, including Flathead, have shut down their mass vaccination sites, opting for mobile or pop-up vaccine clinics. 

Russell says overall case numbers in the county are continuing on a downward trajectory and that many of the people who are becoming infected belong to younger age groups with lower vaccination rates. However, Russell says hospitalizations in the county have ticked upward in recent days. 

“I’m kind of at a loss to know why our hospitalization rates are actually as high as they were in February, but our incidents of COVID-19 illness are trending down.”

Russell says while there are some COVID-19 samples from the county that are being sequenced in order to identify if they’re a variant strain, that data isn’t linked back to hospital patients. So it’s hard to say if variants are to blame for the increase in hospitalizations. 

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.