Montana Public Radio

Richard Stone

A VA nurse gives one of 400 veterans their COVID-19 vaccine at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2021.
Aaron Bolton

The Veterans Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout took center stage at two separate events this week, one in Montana the other on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing Wednesday to update Congress on the massive effort to vaccinate the nation’s veterans

To Vaccinate Veterans, Health Care Workers Must Cross Mountains, Plains And Tundra

Feb 22, 2021
A vaccination team bound for Havre, Montana, loads supplies for the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine into a Learjet 31 at Helena Regional Airport. Also on board were six Veterans Affairs providers tasked with inoculating rural veterans with the covid-19 vaccine.
David Hicks / Kaiser Health News

A Learjet 31 took off before daybreak from Helena Regional Airport in Montana, carrying six Veterans Affairs medical providers and 250 doses of historic cargo cradled in a plug-in cooler designed to minimize breakage.

Even in a state where 80-mph speed limits are normal, ground transportation across long distances is risky for the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine, which must be used within 12 hours of thawing.