Community health care providers and organizations, including the Caring Foundation of Montana and its Care Van® program, have launched a mobile COVID-19 vaccination initiative to inoculate Lewis and Clark County residents.
The initiative, which also includes Lewis and Clark County Public Health, St. Peter’s Health and PureView Health Center, is holding vaccination clinics for people who may otherwise have difficulty getting immunized against COVID-19. In Montana, vaccine eligibility currently is limited to:
- Montanans at least age 70
- Residents ages 16 to 69 with a high-risk medical condition
- Native Americans and other people of color at risk of suffering severe COVID-19 complications
As of Feb. 16, an estimated 184,500 vaccine doses had been administered statewide and about 53,500 residents had been fully immunized.
The Care Van is being used to transport doses to eligible residents, and its involvement in vaccine distribution is limited to the Lewis and Clark County initiative.
Care Van Program Administrator Kamille Kirchberg hopes to help distribute more vaccine doses as they become available.
"The Care Van is about helping provide access to health services,” she says. “The largest portion of our Care Van services are immunizations, so it is a natural fit to help disperse the COVID vaccination. With the demand for COVID vaccine so high, we are looking at every avenue possible to help our partners get the vaccine out.”
The program, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, provided more than 22,000 free or reduced-cost vaccinations since 2014. BCBSMT in 2018 launched its nonprofit Caring Foundation to improve vaccination rates and offer other health services to rural and underserved Montana populations.
“Working with local health departments to help provide access to immunizations has always been a core mission of the Care Van,” Kirchberg says. “In a time when access to care is arguably more important than ever, helping our partners have the ability to get the vaccinations to the highest-risk individuals who otherwise might not be able to get to another vaccination site is crucial. We are honored to be able to support their vaccination efforts and do our part to bring the pandemic to an end.”