MSU hosted a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, free-of-charge, for students eligible for  Phase 1B of vaccine distribution in Gallatin County on Saturday, Feb. 6. University Health Partners is working with the Gallatin County Health Department to target high-risk individuals in the MSU community to ensure the limited supply of vaccines is available to those who need it most. 

This phase of vaccinations is based on Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines. Phase 1B guidelines are as follows: people aged 70 years and older, people of color who may have increased risk of death from COVID-19 and people aged 16-69 with underlying health or medical complications. Students, faculty and staff who qualified for vaccines under these guidelines were contacted by MSU with information regarding Phase 1B. The doses administered over the weekend came from Gallatin County’s weekly average supply of 1,300 vaccine doses. 

The MSU Exponenthad the opportunity to speak with two students following their vaccination appointments in the SUB ballrooms on Saturday. Both students had mixed feelings of excitement and nerves before receiving the vaccine. “I know there’s been a lot of speculation, everyone’s freaking out about vaccines and that kind of stuff but I definitely put some research into it and so I wasn’t concerned in that way at all,” said Wyatt Alt, an environmental engineering student. With around 820 students receiving vaccinations in one day, it seemed like, “everything was spaced out nice, there wasn’t really any congestion and they were kind of pumping people through very fast,” Alt said. 

MSU nursing students were on the front lines giving their fellow Bobcats vaccinations. According to Tracy Ellig, Vice President of Communications at MSU, there were “more than a hundred students who are in healthcare fields, who are volunteering,” he said at Gallatin County Health Department’s Weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Report Press Conference held on Friday, Feb. 5. MSU student Kira Emborg said she left her appointment in the SUB feeling glad that students were vaccinating people. “I’m kind of excited for the next one. They asked all the right questions, we had to fill out paperwork, and they [had help from] their supervisors so I felt totally fine about getting vaccinated by a student,” she said. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being used by MSU is given in two separate doses at least two weeks apart. The first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides 50% protection from the virus that causes COVID-19 and 95% protection after the second dose. The clinic distributed the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the second dose clinic will take place on Saturday, Feb. 27.

Both the students felt as though the selection process may need some improvement. “I didn’t receive an email from the school, however I knew I was eligible in this phase just based on reading from county health,” Emborg said. “The email with the way that they sent it out was based on demographic questionnaires that you answered when you entered college.” Alt also had doubts about the university’s process. “I would say the process itself needs improvement for sure, and also just awareness. It seems that everyone hears that Phase 1B is out but nobody knows what that means,” he said.

Gallatin County residents can receive updates about when and where they are able make an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination by texting “Phase1b”, “Phase1c” or “Phase2” to 888777 depending on the phase in which they are eligible to receive the vaccine. The Gallatin County Health Department, Bozeman Health and MSU are in partnership to help distribute all available vaccines and notify community members as they qualify for vaccine distribution phases. 

For further information regarding Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations and the rest of the county’s vaccination process, visit https://www.healthygallatin.org/covid-19-vaccines/