Bozeman Health Vaccination Clinic

A sign outside of Bozeman Health directs patients to the vaccination clinic being held on Feb. 3.

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The vaccine supply in Montana continues to expand but not quickly enough to meet demand in all areas of the state.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte said Thursday some counties may be nearing the end of Phase 1B, the current vaccination stage, which includes adults over 70, those 16-69 with specific underlying health conditions and people of color.

“We’ve gotten feedback from some counties that they’re getting to the end of the current 1B group, and we’ll need to make a decision here in the next couple of weeks on how we get to the next tier,” Gianforte said during a press call.

Gallatin County is not one of those counties.

Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley told the health board on Thursday that demand locally among those in Phase 1B continues to far outpace supply.

“What we need is patience. We just don’t have enough vaccine. We understand people want to know when they’re going to get it and where they’re going to get it,” he said. “We can’t provide that certainty for people without having the vaccine available.”

Kelley added that Gallatin County may receive more doses in the coming weeks.

The state has been pushing the federal government for a larger shipment and has begun to see an increase in doses in its weekly allocation.

To ensure counties move into the next phase — Phase 1C — together, Kelley said the state may reallocate doses from counties that are farther along in vaccinating residents in Phase 1B to other counties that need to catch up.

There is no estimate for when Gallatin County will move to Phase 1C — frontline essential workers, adults over 60, individuals living in congregate settings and those 16-59 with certain underlying medical conditions — because the vaccine supply is so uncertain, Kelley said. However, he said the county will know it’s time to broaden eligibility when it has difficulty filling vaccine appointments.

Kelley has also spoken to state officials about the fact that Gallatin County appears to be receiving fewer doses of COVID-19 vaccines per capita than other large counties. To rectify the problem, he said the county may receive a larger allocation in the coming weeks.

The state distributes the doses it receives each week based on several factors, including the population of those eligible in a given county, previous allocations and the amount of vaccine local providers have left to administer, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

If the Johnson & Johnson vaccine receives federal approval, it is possible Montana, along with the rest of the country, could begin to receive more doses.

Gen. Matt Quinn, who oversees the state’s COVID-19 response, said that Montana doesn’t yet know when it will be able to request Johnson & Johnson vaccines but that when the time comes, it’s likely the state will see an additional 1,000 to 1,500 doses.

National pharmaceutical chains are also beginning to offer vaccines in Montana under a new federal program. Gianforte said the state is focusing on supplying those doses to rural counties and has started with 21 counties, which to date have received 3,100 doses.

In Gallatin County, the health department continues to work with Bozeman Health, Community Health Partners and Montana State University to distribute vaccines and has been registering residents for appointments through direct outreach, partnership with other local organizations and public sign-ups.

Dozens of residents have criticized the vaccine distribution process, citing the difficulty of securing an appointment and technical glitches on the sign-up website.

“We continue to try to make multiple front doors available to people. Some of those front doors cause frustration. We understand that,” Kelley said. “But we think it’s really important to be able to create access in a number of ways because not everybody can access the same way.”

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.