GALLATIN COUNTY — We’ve heard stories about people in Gallatin County who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine trying to make an appointment with no luck.
So why exactly is it so difficult for Gallatin County residents to make a local appointment for their vaccine?
“For 250 appointments last Friday in Gallatin County, that filled up in two minutes,” said JP Pomnichowski (D), SD 33.
Pomnichoswki says she reached out to Governor Gianforte and the COVID-19 Task Force asking for more doses of vaccine to come to Gallatin County.
General Matt Quinn, the executive director of the COVID-19 Task Force, says every week the CDC tells them what the state distribution amount is.
From there, the vaccine is distributed to Montana counties based on the percent eligible population.
Early on, the state was receiving around 10,000 doses a week, now over 20,000.
General Quinn says those numbers are state-allocated vaccines only and do not include other sources of vaccine, like from the Federal Pharmacy Program.
Quinn believes Gallatin County residents may be getting frustrated seeing more vaccine appointments available at pharmacies in different counties. He says that’s out of the state’s hands.
“We can’t control what the feds allocate to the Federal Pharmacy Program, nor can we control what Albertson's does with those vaccines,” said General Quinn.
“If they send all of those vaccines or the bulk of them to Billings, we can’t control that.”
Quinn also says uptake and demand might be higher in Gallatin County, then say, Yellowstone County.
The DPHHS says vaccine uptake could be a factor in deciding how the vaccine is allocated from the state level to different counties, but that’s further down the road.
“Right now we’re not there yet,” said Bekki Wehner, bureau chief with the Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau.
“But we want to make sure that over time we don’t have a bunch of vaccine sitting in one county that’s not being used. But right now, we feel that it's important that every community member get a chance at having a vaccine.”
In the meantime, many like senator Pomnichowski say we need to find a way to get more vaccines to Gallatin County.
General Quin says, as tough as it sounds, Gallatin County residents need to stay patient.
“Frankly, I’m glad that Montanans, especially Gallatin County residents want the vaccine, and we will continue to get the vaccine out and get it into the arms,” said Quinn.
Incident Command with Gallatin County says providers in Gallatin County have the capacity to administer more vaccines if allocation increases.