MISSOULA — U.S. Army and Marine veteran Kent Stewart -- who drove from Polson to Missoula to receive his first dose of the Moderna vaccine -- became the 10,000th Montana veteran to receive a COVID-19 vaccine from Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS).
Since COVID-19 vaccines became available, veterans have also received COVID-19 vaccines through their local community providers.
“I have been an anti-vaxer since 2003. I got sick from the anthrax vaccine, which almost killed me,” said Stewart. “My kids were scared. My wife was scared and now since time has passed, I want to set an example for my family to try to get them to quit being such anti-vaxers. It took me a lot of soul-searching myself to do this -- a lot of research. Maybe, I can set an example for my family and for the community and for Veterans in general.”
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, veterans have shown Montana what leadership looks like. At first, this was by taking proactive steps to keep themselves and their communities safe, even though taking actions to physically distance and wear masks were not the easiest possible decisions,” said MTVAHCS Executive Director Dr. Judy Hayman. “Today, we celebrate the leadership of the 10,000 veterans who have done their part to end the pandemic and protect themselves, their loved ones, their healthcare teams, and their communities.”
Since late December, MTVAHCS has administered just under 19,000 COVID-19 vaccinations and overcome the logistical challenges of administering vaccines to Montana veterans, including vaccine freezer storage, transporting vaccines, staffing vaccine clinics, winter roads, and finding local sites to host COVID-19 vaccine events.
MTVAHCS has hosted vaccine clinics at 13 sites across Montana. After being selected to lead a Veterans Health Administration national pilot program to bring vaccines to rural veterans, MTVAHCS used fixed-wing aircraft to transport vaccines to veterans and driven vaccines directly to homebound veterans.
Montana veterans (enrolled and unenrolled), their spouses, and caregivers who have not yet received their COVID-19 vaccine are eligible through MTVAHCS. Under the SAVE Lives Act, the VA’s legal authority to provide COVID-19 vaccines expanded to include all Veterans, regardless of their VA health care enrollment status, as well as Veteran spouses, caregivers, and some beneficiaries.
To schedule an appointment:
- Enrolled veterans should call (877) 468-8387 and select Option 2, and then Option 2 to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
- Non-enrolled veterans, their spouses and/or caregivers, and CHAMPVA recipients will need to sign up online to register to receive a vaccine. Once registered, MTVAHCS staff will then contact each individual to schedule a vaccine appointment. Walk-in appointments are also available at most MTVAHCS vaccine clinics.
Veterans can follow COVID-19 vaccination updates at MTVAHCS’s webpage, via email, Facebook, or Twitter. Veterans who have questions about receiving the vaccine can send a secure message here or call (877) 468-8387 (Option 2) to set up a time to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.
Any veteran who has received a COVID-19 vaccine from a non-VA provider is encouraged to notify their MTVAHCS healthcare team to have their records updated.