As the Yellowstone County Unified Health Command prepares to host community vaccination clinics this week, it's looking for a second location to administer second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
A second location would be used to administer second doses to those who receive their first dose at Cedar Hall at MetraPark. Cedar Hall will only be used to administer first doses, said Greg Neill, RiverStone Health emergency response manager.
Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton said last week that UHC, comprised of RiverStone Health, Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare, would staff a centralized community vaccination clinic.
The second location should be chosen by the time this week's clinic patients are ready for their second doses, Neill said. Both the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines require two doses administered three to four weeks apart.
Second doses are automatically sent to the state at the three to four week period, so it's important for residents to get their shots when they're scheduled, Neill said.
Residents who have already received a first dose from St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings Clinic or the county's health agency, RiverStone Health, will be required to get their second dose at the same location.
The free clinics will offer Pfizer and Moderna vaccines Tuesday from 1-4:30 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday 8-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. County residents can visit covid.riverstonehealth.org or call 406-651-6596 for an appointment. Residents can also visit the website directly at mtreadyclinic.org to make an appointment. Vaccinations are only available to county residents, Neill said.
Montana in mid-January moved into Phase 1B, which includes people ages 70 and older, along with those ages 16-69 with specific underlying health conditions and American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk. Health care workers and first responders in Phase 1A can still receive a vaccine.
About 8,400 people are expected to be vaccinated at the Cedar Hall location each week. About 37 people sourced from each health care facility, including nursing students from Montana State University Billings, will staff the clinic each shift, or every four hours, Neill said.
At Cedar Hall, people with an appointment will present valid identification at the door. They'll be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and then register and sign a consent form. They'll be vaccinated and then monitored for 15 to 30 minutes in a large, socially-distanced seating area. People will then be able to schedule their second dose, Neill said. The entire process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
The clinic will service about 420 appointments every four hours, Neill said, however there are hundreds of slots still available this week. For example, 102 appointments are still available on Wednesday, according to the vaccine scheduling site.
The reason for the number of available appointments could be weather-related, he said.
"There's still quite a few open slots," Neill said. "The phone calls this morning — we opened the phone calls for people who don't have internet — those filled up in two hours."