Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on a Tuesday press call said, with the majority of jurisdictions halfway through the current COVID-19 vaccination phase, the state is expanding who is eligible for a shot with a special “plus” category starting Monday, March 8.
Gianforte said Phase 1B+ will include Montanans in their 60s and people 16 to 59 years of age with additional underlying health conditions, including asthma, cystic fibrosis and liver disease.
The list also includes cerebrovascular disease, neurological conditions like dementia, pulmonary fibrosis and thalassemia, a type of blood disorder. Medical providers may include people with other conditions that place them at elevated risk for COVID-19 related complications.
“With this expansion, we are prioritizing population groups which account for nearly 90% of Montana’s total deaths and more than 70% of Montana’s hospitalizations during this pandemic,” Gianforte said.
An estimated 100,000 to 140,000 Montanans will be included in Phase 1B+.
The state is currently working through vaccinating people eligible under Phase 1B, which includes people over 70, Native Americans and other minorities at higher risk for compilations from COVID-19, and people with qualifying underlying health conditions listed here.
Gianforte said the state health department polled local jurisdictions on their Phase 1B progress and the majority said they’re more than halfway through vaccinating eligible residents. Fourteen jurisdictions estimated they’re more than 75 percent through the phase.
He said the timeline for Phase 1C, which includes frontline essential workers not already vaccinated, is still on track for late spring or early summer due to the rise in available vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Gianforte changed the state’s vaccine distribution plan in early January, saying his administration was prioritizing the state’s most vulnerable by moving people with underlying health conditions up and pushing back frontline essential workers.
On Tuesday, Pres. Joe Biden directed every state to prioritize educators and child care workers to receive at least one shot by the end of the month.
Montana is slated to receive over 33,000 first doses of vaccines this week, including 8,700 of the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The state will also get another 21,000 second doses from Pfizer and Moderna.