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Montana VA Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines to Rural Veterans

Havre, Mont.— Montana VA Health Care System has been selected to lead a national VHA pilot program to bring vaccines to rural Veterans. On the morning of January 21, a vaccination team will fly doses of the Moderna vaccine in special plug-in coolers from Fort Harrison’s ultracold on-site freezer to Havre. Veterans in the Havre area who are enrolled in VHA healthcare will be able to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are excited that our Montana team has been selected by Dr. Stone, VHA’s Executive in Charge, to lead this rural vaccine distribution program,” said Executive Director Judy Hayman. “The requirements to safely store, transport, and administer the vaccines in winter can present challenges for rural clinics and pharmacies. After fighting coronavirus for almost a year, we are grateful Veterans in the Havre area can take one step closer towards safety and wellbeing. The whole MTVAHCS team will celebrate knowing these Veterans will be safer from the pandemic.”

MTVAHCS staff has begun calling eligible enrolled Veterans to schedule vaccine appointments for the January 21 Have vaccination event based on risk assessments. The vaccines are free and require two doses, given 28 days apart. Veterans will be scheduled for their second dose at their first appointment. All Veterans who receive a vaccine will be closely monitored for reactions, side effects, or adverse events.

“Over 60% of MTVAHCS staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine so far,” said MTVAHCS Chief of Staff Dr. JP Maganito. “Our staff choose to get this vaccine to protect themselves, their patients, their loved ones, and their communities. This vaccine is safe, effective, and is necessary for us all to help establish herd immunity and finally end this pandemic.”

The vaccination event will be held in the former Herberger’s building at Havre’s Holiday Village Mall (1753 Highway 2, NW Suite 3). All Veterans will be screened for COVID-19 before entering the building and must wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth.

Vaccines are available by appointment only to Veterans who are enrolled in VHA healthcare. Any Veteran who is not enrolled is encouraged to call (406) 447-7350 to find out if they are eligible. Unenrolled Veterans are encouraged to call as soon as possible. If a Veteran meets eligibility requirements, they may be able to receive the vaccine on January 21.

At this time, MTVAHCS is planning multiple vaccination events around the state and will call Veterans to schedule appointments. MTVAHCS staff have begun calling eligible enrolled Veterans to schedule vaccine appointments this week for Fort Harrison and Missoula’s first Veteran vaccination events. MTVAHCS will continue to administer COVID-19 vaccines until all enrolled Veterans who want to receive the vaccine have been immunized.

High risk Veterans will be contacted first followed by all other Veterans who want a vaccine. High risk Veterans are identified as persons 75 years or older and any Veteran who has a medical condition that may put them at increased risk based on CDC risk criteria and VHA guidance.

Veterans can follow COVID-19 vaccination updates via email (sign up here), Facebook (@VAMontana), and Twitter (@VAMontanaHCS). If a Veteran has questions about receiving the vaccine, they can send their healthcare team a secure message through MyHealtheVet or call 844-819-0833 to set up a time to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.

MTVAHCS’s overall trust scores—which derive from Veteran rankings of their health care experiences—are at a historic high. MTVAHCS provides healthcare to Veterans across Montana through a series of community-based clinics, the Miles City Community Living Center (Montana VA’s only nursing home), an acute care medical center, a nationally acclaimed sleep center, and robust telehealth services.

MTVAHCS serves over 47,000 enrolled Veterans across Montana—an area roughly 147,000 square miles in size. Veterans are cared for by a staff of 1,400 at 17 sites of care across the state. One third of MTVAHCS employees are Veterans.


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