MT Dept Health 406

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Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Sheila Hogan announced today that Montana has submitted its draft COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for review.

“This is a critical step, and I’m pleased with where we’re at this point in the process,” Director Hogan said. “I look forward to working with the CDC and key stakeholders throughout Montana as we move forward to both refine the plan, as needed, and then prepare to implement it once the vaccine becomes available.”

DPHHS expects feedback from CDC on the plan next week. Simultaneously, DPHHS has already begun and will continue to seek input from various key stakeholders. For example, a virtual Tribal Consultation was held on October 8, and included tribal governments, urban Indian health centers, and Indian Health Service.

Montana’s planning efforts are based upon CDC guidance to anticipate a phased approach due to anticipated initial limited vaccine availability. This strategic approach accounts for the overlap of work between phases, and is flexible for any updated guidance at the federal level.  

Hogan said Phase 1 of the plan covers the first two months from when the state receives its first shipment of the vaccine and targets people at the highest risk of life-threatening infection and Montana’s critical infrastructure workforce. The plan provides a framework for how critical populations are defined for the COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with federal guidance.

The plan details steps DPHHS will take to implement all phases of the plan by working with local public and private health providers in communities across the state. “DPHHS is committed to collaborating with all key partners throughout the COVID-19 vaccination process,” Hogan said.

Phase 2 of the plan will continue targeting the critical workforce, second dose vaccines will be provided as needed, and vaccine distribution will be expanded to other prioritized groups.

As vaccine availability continues to increase, Phase 3 will help ensure every Montanan who wants a vaccination is able to obtain one. However, implementation for Phase 3, and all phases, is highly dependent on various factors, such as updated guidance and operational decisions made at the federal level. “The current plan is based on information known at this time, but there’s still many unknowns at this point, so this will be a work in progress,” Hogan said. A timeline for release of the vaccine is currently uncertain, so the plan does not include specific dates.

The plan also covers related topics such as vaccine storage and handling, administration documentation and reporting, vaccine training, communication and safety monitoring.

DPHHS provides funding to local jurisdictions to both develop and regularly exercise mass vaccination plans. DPHHS last partnered with local jurisdictions to hold a full-scale exercise in October 2019.

Hogan added that DPHHS plans to establish two key advisory groups that will guide the effective vaccination effort. An internal COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Advisory Group will be comprised of subject matter experts in communicable disease, immunization, and public health preparedness.

A broader COVID-19 Vaccination Plan Coordination Team will be comprised of stakeholders from various sectors across the state, many of whom are established key COVID-19 crisis response partners. This team will include, but not limited, health systems and hospitals, local health departments, Tribal governments, various congregate settings and others.

“Our plan recognizes the importance of a collaborative response,” Hogan said. “We look forward to coordinating with our strong network of local partners that we already communicate with on a regular basis.”


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