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

96 Percent Of Vaccinated Montanans Returning For Second COVID-19 Dose

Moderna COVID vaccine in a small bottle

About 96% of Montanans who received their first COVID-19 vaccine are showing up for their second dose, according to the state health department. That’s slightly better than the national rate recently reported by federal health officials.

Jim Murphy with the state health department says he’s pleased that nearly all Montanans are returning for their second COVID vaccines.

“So out of almost 400,000, we have 14,600 that are late, meaning that it’s been more than two weeks since they were due for their second shot,” Murphy says.

A recent report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 8%, or 5 million Americans due for their second dose before April 9 didn’t return for their appointment. 

Murphy says some of these people may actually be getting their second dose if they moved to another state, or decided to get their second shot at a pharmacy down the street rather than returning to a mass vaccination clinic. He adds there are others who may be misguided by false information online telling them they are protected after one dose, or may be wary after their initial experience. 

“They could have felt under the weather after their first shot, [unclear] considering their second shot,” he says.

During a virtual AARP Montana town hall this week, a Helena woman in her 50s named Lisa explained that stories about more intense side effects after the second dose made her nervous about getting her first shot.

“I’ve talked to several people who have been incredibly sick — fever, chills, in bed for the day — and I think that’s what’s scaring me,” she said.

Dr. Douglas Kuntzweiler with Mountain-Pacific Quality Health responded to her concerns.

“Let me tell you, if you get a bad case of the COVID, you’re going to feel a whole lot worse than you will reacting to your second dose of the vaccine.”

State health officials say local health departments are trying to reach people overdue for their second shot. But state health officials are more concerned about getting people like Lisa, who are among the 54% of unvaccinated Montanans eligible for a shot, to sign up for their first appointment.

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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