COVID-19 Vaccine Info – MT 1B

COVID-19 Vaccine Info – MT 1B

Cascade County is now receiving vaccine doses more frequently, vaccination appointment slots will be published as they are available. To find out the current availability of vaccine appointments please visit the scheduling page using the link below.

CLICK HERE to visit the scheduling system page at Benefis.

Click here for frequently asked questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Information about appointment eligibility, the appointment scheduling process and vaccination clinic location are listed below.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

The Cascade City-County Health Department is pleased to announce that everyone in Tier 1B is eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccination.

Those eligible in Tier 1B are the following:

  • Individuals age 70+
  • Individuals age 16-69 with qualifying health conditions* No doctor’s note or other proof of medical condition is required. That would quickly overwhelm doctors’ offices.
  • American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications

*Phase 1B qualifying medical conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathy
  • Immuno-compromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Severe obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 1 and 2 diabetes

On a case-by-case basis, medical providers may include individuals with other conditions that place them at elevated risk for COVID-19-related complications

If you have any of these conditions, or other serious conditions such that you think your doctor would advise you to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit www.benefis.org/covidvaccine immediately to schedule your vaccination appointment.

If you are unable to book your appointment online, please ask only one trusted friend or family member to help you. Take care that you do not book multiple appointments for yourself using the online portal.


 

Additionally, the Cascade County vaccine waiting list will not be maintained going forward. The waiting list has become an unsustainable drain on limited staffing resources, due to the following:

  • Duplicate entries, including from people who had already scheduled appointments online
  • People putting themselves on the waitlist then receiving the vaccine elsewhere—including at the VA, Indian Family Health Clinic, Malmstrom, or select local pharmacies
  • Anyone eligible for vaccination at the VA, Malmstrom, or Indian Family Health Clinic should seek vaccination there first
  • Pharmacies are still receiving very limited doses of vaccine

Furthermore, the waiting list is becoming less necessary. We are expecting continual shipments of vaccine, in greater amounts, and the vaccine will only become more widely available throughout Cascade County as time goes on.

If you are unable to book your appointment online, please ask only one trusted friend or family member to help you. Take care that you do not book multiple appointments for yourself using the online portal.

 

Scheduling Process and Eligibility

Who:
Community members age 70 and older along with those age 16-69 with underlying medical conditions* (see above) are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

How:
Appointments must be scheduled online at Benefis.org/COVIDvaccine.
You will be required to provide a valid email address to book your appointment.

  • The vaccine consists of two doses. You will be scheduled for your second dose of the vaccine at the time your first dose is administered. Second doses will occur 3-5 weeks after first doses, so please anticipate your future availability when scheduling your first dose.
  • If you do not arrive as scheduled for your appointment, your appointment will not be automatically rescheduled.

You will not be permitted to schedule your second vaccine dose online yourself.

Where:
Vaccinations will take place at the Family Living Center of the Montana Expo Park’s Family Living Center at 400 3rd St. NW in Great Falls.

You must preschedule an appointment to receive the vaccine. If you do not have an appointment, you will be turned away.

You must present a valid form of identification at the scheduled time of your vaccine. If your identification indicates that you are not age 16 or older, you will be turned away even if you have an appointment.

Other Information:
We expect it to take four weeks to administer the first dose of the two-dose vaccine to everyone who falls into tier 1B. Future vaccination dates, times, and number of available slots will be published as they are available.

Community members vaccinated through this process will not get a choice regarding which brand of vaccine is administered.

 

FAQs About the Vaccine in General

Is there a cost for the COVID-19 vaccine?

At this time, the government is covering the cost of the vaccine so there is no cost to the patient/recipient.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

Studies have shown the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to be 95 and 94.1 percent effective, respectively.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Extensive clinical trials were conducted to evaluate the COVID-19 vaccine. No serious safety concerns have been reported.

What’s the difference between the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines?

Let’s start with the similarities. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are made of laboratory manifested agent called mRNA that causes the body to make a substance to which your body’s immune system responds; both vaccines require two doses for the highest immunity; and both vaccines have proven to be extremely safe and effective in trials.

The main difference is that the Moderna vaccine requires 28 days between the two doses, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires 21 days between doses. In addition, the Moderna vaccine can be stored in normal freezers, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, making it more accessible outside of hospitals.

For more information from the FDA on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, click here.

For more information from the FDA on the Moderna vaccine, click here.

After my first vaccine, can I get a second vaccine from a different manufacturer?

No. You should complete the series of vaccines with the same product.

Do I still need to get vaccinated if I already had COVID-19 and recovered?

If you have been positive for COVID-19 and/or are not currently in the isolation period, you may wait 90 days after infection to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC suggests reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection and thus persons with documented acute infection in the preceding 90 days may defer vaccination until the end of this period, if desired.

If I got the flu vaccine, can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be administered at least 14 days after any other vaccine, including the flu vaccine.

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Because there is currently no cure for COVID-19, prevention is our best strategy. The development of COVID-19 vaccines is an important step in helping minimize the effects of this potentially deadly virus. Vaccines work by training your immune system to recognize and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. By triggering an immune system response to a virus through a vaccine, your body is better equipped to destroy these disease-causing microbes in the future should you be exposed to COVID-19.

If I wear a mask and social distance, do I need the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Although mask wearing and social distancing are important to limit exposure to COVID-19, the vaccine will help protect you from serious illness if you become infected. The combination of getting vaccinated and following guidelines, such as mask wearing and social distancing, offer the best protection for you and can help prevent spread to others.

Does the vaccine contain the live virus?

No. Unlike traditional vaccines, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA vaccines –– also called mRNA vaccines. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein –– or even just a piece of a protein –– that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us if the real virus enters our bodies.

Will I need to continue wearing a mask and practicing social distancing after getting the vaccine?

Yes. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, and the CDC recommends that everyone continues using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, such as covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, staying at least six feet away from others, following CDC travel guidance, following quarantine guidance after an exposure to someone with COVID-19, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations on how to protect yourself and others, offers the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.

Experts need to understand more about the protection from being contagious that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. We know it significantly reduces symptomatic and severe disease, but not whether it completely protects from infecting others. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m not feeling well?

If you aren’t feeling well, it is recommended that you wait until you’re feeling better to get the vaccine.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for anyone?

The COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary. You’re encouraged to educate yourself so you can make an informed decision that is right for you.

If I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, do I still need a flu and/or pneumonia shot?

The COVID-19 vaccine does not take the place of any other vaccination. In our current environment, it is extremely important to do as much as possible to stay healthy, including getting the flu vaccine and any others recommended by your healthcare provider to prevent the spread of illness.

How long will my COVID-19 immunity last after vaccination?

It is unknown at this time how long immunity will last; ongoing studies will help determine if repeat vaccination is needed, and if it is, how often we may need a booster. Therefore, after vaccination you will still need to wear a mask and social distance until further notice. Factors such as how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities will help determine when we may be able to stop taking these extra precautions.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause any side effects?

Side effects are a normal sign that your body is building protection. Some people may experience more symptoms with the COVID-19 vaccine compared to other vaccinations, such as the flu shot. The second or booster dose can produce symptoms more severe than experienced with the first dose. The most common side effect is muscle soreness or aching in the arm, which will resolve without treatment. Other common side effects after vaccination may include:

  • Swelling or redness where the vaccine was administered
  • Muscle and joint achiness elsewhere
  • Low-grade fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

These side effects are expected and not serious. They will resolve with time. If you are experiencing symptoms more serious than those described, or fever continues for more than two days, contact your doctor or seek care at the nearest emergency department. Make sure you notify the vaccine administrator of these symptoms prior to your second vaccine shot.

Can the vaccine cause COVID-19?

No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the U.S., including the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, use the live virus that causes COVID-19. After receiving the vaccine, you may experience symptoms such as arm pain, low-grade fever, chills or fatigue. This is normal and symptoms will resolve without treatment.