Fairgrounds Vaccination Clinic

Taylor Young, a University of Montana pharmacy student, fills doses of the Moderna vaccine on April 2 at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.

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The Gallatin City-County Health Department could receive just over $1 million to spur vaccination efforts throughout Gallatin County, after being considered as a budget amendment by the Gallatin County Commission on Tuesday.

The money could be used to expand outreach and education on COVID-19 vaccines, fund pop-up vaccination clinics and expanding the health department’s workforce, according to documents from the commission meeting.

The money would come just as the Centers for Disease Control approved the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 last week, and with the authorization of a booster shot for fully vaccinated people last month. COVID-19 vaccination rates in Gallatin County stood at 63% of the eligible population fully-immunized Wednesday, according to Montana’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The Gallatin County Commission is scheduled to have a public hearing on the addition of the money to the Gallatin-City County Health Department’s Communicable Disease Fund at 9 a.m. on Nov. 16 in the Gallatin County Courthouse.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services would provide the money to the county health department. The $1 million is the newest installment of an agreement between the county and state health departments.

Prior to the pandemic, the agreement focused on vaccination strategies for getting children and young adults immunized to vaccine-preventable diseases like influenza, said Health Officer Lori Christenson.

The money for the agreement starts at the federal level.

The state health department receives money through a cooperative agreement with the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and then distributes that money to local agencies like the Gallatin City-County Health Department.

The latest iteration of that state and federal agreement was established in 2019 and scheduled to last until 2024. Just over $50 million was given to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services for COVID-19, with just under $5 million having been allocated to local agencies so far, according to USASpending.gov.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department was set to receive $42,099 from the state health department, but an amendment to the agreement outlined the money would be geared toward COVID-19 vaccination efforts tacked on an additional $1,026,277.

One element of the amended agreement is the expansion of outreach and education on the vaccines and getting vaccinated. Christenson said that while the money could be used to grow vaccine awareness marketing campaigns that have been in place since earlier this year, there is still much to be done on working to find ways to ensure greater knowledge and access to COVID-19 vaccines across Gallatin County.

“Reaching high vaccination rates continues to be key for achieving broader population immunity through a vaccine,” Christenson said. “We are going to continue working with partners across the community to identify strategies and opportunities to increase vaccination rates, especially for groups that may be missed by traditional channels.”

To find where and when to get a COVID-19 vaccine, along with information on booster shots and pediatric vaccines, visit healthygallatin.org.

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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