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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

First Vaccine Dose Given To Around 70% Of Long-Term Care, Assisted Living Residents

The first in the two-dose COVID vaccinations comes with a vaccine record card listing the when and where of the second shot.

An updated count of vaccine uptake in Montana's vulnerable settings shows about 70% of residents in long-term care and assisted-living facilities have opted to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Older Montanans have been especially hard-hit by the virus.

Jim Murphy with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said every resident in the state’s roughly 280 long-term care and assisted living homes has been offered their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

"We’re still kind of doing some analysis on this, but our preliminary numbers for assisted-living facilities show about 69.7% of the residents got the first dose, and in the long-term care facilities, it’s 72.1%" Murphy said.

After a closer analysis of the data, the state health department revised its initial estimate of vaccine uptake at these centers.

Gov. Greg Gianforte said earlier this month that about half of residents and staff chose to get the vaccine. Staff are also being offered vaccines, but Murphy says it’s tougher to track their uptake rates. He says early indications are that roughly two-thirds of staff at long-term care facilities are electing to receive vaccines.

The health department is working on a similar estimate for assisted-living homes. Walgreens and CVS, which were contracted by the federal government, are expected to visit each facility three times by mid-March. Murphy said the state is just starting to look at the variability of vaccine uptake among residents and staff in each building.

"Because that will be of interest to our Epis as we look at, are there still active outbreaks going on, and do those correlate with lower vaccination rates?" Murphy said.

According to DPHHS, there were 684 active COVID-19 cases in long-term care and assisted-living facilities across the state as of Friday. Residents have accounted for about a third of all COVID deaths in the state. Murphy expects fewer hospitalizations and deaths as more residents and staff become fully vaccinated in the coming weeks.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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