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Big Sky Relief preps for cross-county vaccine distribution

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Nurses at Big Sky Medical Center wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 23. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has proven complicated in many cities and states across the country. Now the vaccine is making its way to southwest Montana, and in Big Sky, which straddles two counties, a broad-based collaborative group is working together to get the distribution game right.

In order to ensure seamless collaboration between Gallatin and Madison counties and to get the vaccine into the arms of Big Sky residents who meet the criteria for Phase 1B, Big Sky Relief has gathered a partnership of organizations to help streamline distribution within the community as doses become available.

The partnership includes Big Sky Resort Area District, Bozeman Health, Madison Valley Medical Center, Gallatin City-County Health Department and Madison County Public Health Department.

“We all have identified that cross-county communication needs to increase,” said Daniel Bierschwale, executive director for the Big Sky Area Resort Tax District. “We’ve had a really good response from both counties working together in partnership to try and move needs forward and increase communication as it relates to the vaccination.”

On a state level, vaccines are being distributed to counties on a weekly basis, according to Adam Meier, director of Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services. Big Sky Medical Center received their first doses on Dec. 23 as a part of the initial Phase 1A allocation. Bierschwale says they’re unsure when additional vaccines will arrive for Phase 1B distribution in Big Sky.

“While the current supply the state receives each week from the federal government isn’t keeping up with the demand in Montana, the state is one of the best in the nation in administering the vaccine to its citizens,” Meier said in a Feb. 3 press release.

Additionally, DPHHS announced that Montana is on track receive 16,425 first doses and 13,525 second doses for those awaiting their second vaccine. Allocation is dependent on factors such as the county’s estimated population of those eligible to receive the vaccine in each phase, previous allocations, and the amount of vaccine they have left to administer.

Both Gallatin and Madison counties are currently in Phase 1B and the individual waitlist process varies depending upon your county of residency and how many vaccines the county receives from the state. Up-to-date information will be made available on bigskyrelief.org as plans for vaccination move between phases.

Vaccine phases include Phase 1A—healthcare workers and those in assisted living facilities—1B, 1C and 2. In Phase 1B, vaccines are available to those 70 years of age and older, 16 to 69 years of age with a high-risk medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color.

The partnership through Big Sky Relief does not require any additional funding, according to Bierschwale, since all vaccinations are being funded through the state. Bierschwale says the roles of BSRAD and Big Sky Relief are largely to facilitate communication. The location where vaccines will be distributed in Big Sky is yet to be determined.

Gallatin County residents

Those in Gallatin County can complete a waitlist form. At this time, only people who meet the criteria of Phase 1B will be added to the waitlist and county officials will contacted residents when their dose is available. To stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccination information in Gallatin County, sign up for the county’s vaccine notification system.

Madison County residents

Madison County residents can call (406) 682-4223 to be added to the waitlist. People in all Phases (1B, 1C and 2) may call to be added to the waitlist, but doses will only be made available for those that meet the criteria of Phase 1B at this time. More information on the waitlist process is available through the Madison County Medical Center.

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