The vaccination push

Top-down policies, company collaborations and what it means for Big Sky

Sixty two doses of COVID-19 vaccine were delivered to Big Sky School District 72 faculty and staff. This came as a result of a March 17 vaccination clinic held in the Ophir Elementary School gym. The effort was a part of the federal allocation of vaccines earmarked for educators and school staff.

President Joe Biden said in his March 2 remarks that the increased production of three vaccines will allow the nation to address the national need more quickly and get schools back open safely.

He said in-person learning is an essential service and to facilitate that service, vaccinations need to begin immediately.

“My challenge to all states, territories, and the District of Columbia is this: We want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” he said. The federal pharmacy program was used to prioritize vaccines for those groups.

Earlier in his remarks he discussed the collaboration between competing pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Merck to expand production of J&J’s vaccine and expedite vaccine availability in the nation.

“This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II,” he said. “I want to thank Johnson & Johnson and Merck for stepping up and being good corporate citizens during this national crisis.”

While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, he said citizens must continue to be vigilant and look out for one another.

Big Sky Relief Update

Over 1,000 people have been vaccinated in Big Sky so far, according to Taylor Rose, director of Clinical Services & Operations at Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center. He said there is a move toward a more ongoing distribution plan that will have regularly planned out clinics for more consistent vaccine distribution.

Important to note as clinics are accelerated: vaccine clinics are not walk-ins, explained Big Sky Resort Area District (BSRAD) Executive Director Daniel Bierschwale.

Big Sky Fire Chief Greg Megaard urged vigilance by residents during the visitor increase from Spring Break.

“Do your part to remind visitors to practice safe habits and that Gallatin County still has a mask mandate in place,” he said.

Community surveillance testing continues until April 9. Surplus tests will be available for pick-up after the 9th, but must be mailed for analysis, according to BSRAD Board Chair Kevin Germain. He noted that over 45,000 tests have been conducted with 800 positive cases identified and around 2,700 to 2,800 tests are being administered weekly.

Expanded eligibility in Gallatin County

Gallatin City-County Health Department recently confirmed via a press release that it is expanding the eligibility criteria for COVID-19 vaccines, meaning people age 16 and older will be eligible. Expanded access will remain available to higher-risk groups.

The health department will likely conduct vaccination clinics specific to those high risk populations, as demand continues to outpace supply of the vaccine available in the county.

“We’re determined to make vaccines available to those who have been eligible for some time and waiting, Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley said. “At the same time, we also will be working to expand access to young people as outlined in the state’s expanded eligibility criteria.”

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