Vaccine File

Chrys Kirkwood receives his first dose of the Moderna vaccine at a clinic at the Keltz Arena on March 26, 2021, in Dillon. 

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Montana’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to increase next week, news that comes as the state opens vaccine eligibility to all Montanans ages 16 and older beginning Thursday.

Governor Greg Gianforte announced Wednesday that the state is expecting to receive about 66,000 COVID-19 vaccines next week, an increase of about 15,000 compared to last week.

The state is expecting to receive 41,610 first doses and about 25,000 second doses.

“These vaccines are saving lives, minimizing hospitalizations and slowing the spread of the virus,” Gianforte said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference. “Our trend lines remain encouraging and the reason for that is these vaccines are safe and effective, they work, and I encourage Montanans to get theirs now that we’re opening it up statewide.”

Gianforte said that he’ll be receiving a dose of a vaccine Thursday in Helena. He didn’t specify which, but said that all vaccines available to Montanans are safe and effective and that he encouraged people to get them to protect themselves and their neighbors.

Gallatin County opened its vaccine sign-up portal on Wednesday at noon for county residents to get on a waitlist for a COVID-19 vaccine. By Wednesday at 4:15 p.m., there were 5,676 people on the waitlist.

According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, Gallatin County has administered 41,527 vaccine doses, with 15,799 people fully immunized. Statewide, more than 487,000 doses have been administered, with more than 191,000 Montanans fully vaccinated.

While in recent weeks there was some concern about the number of cases increasing in school settings, the Bozeman School District reported fewer cases this week compared to last.

Gianforte said there wasn’t a specific target number for how many Montanans would need to be vaccinated before achieving herd immunity. The governor also said that despite urging from President Joe Biden and the Centers for Disease Control that states reinstate mask mandates, that he would not be doing so unless there was a change in hospitalization or infection trends.

“Barring some reversal in the trends, we’re going to continue to open up Montana so we can get back to normal,” Gianforte said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, it was not clear if a mixup at a factory in Baltimore that ruined about 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will impact Montana’s supply in the coming weeks.

Montana is slated to receive 15,600 doses of the single-shot J&J vaccine next week. Officials also expect to receive about 15,000 doses from Pfizer and about 11,000 Moderna doses from the federal government.

Montana State University spokesperson Tracy Ellig said in an email to the Chronicle that if the supply and timeline allows for Montana State University clinics, the university has a plan to make clinics available for students and staff, as long as it can get first and second doses done before the last day of the semester on April 30.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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