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Mobile clinics bring COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable populations in Helena
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Mobile clinics bring COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable populations in Helena

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Margie Copenhaver, 83, gets a COVID-19 shot Friday from Registered Nurse Priscilla Cates at Eagles Manor.

Some residents of Eagles Manor in Helena said they probably could have gone to a drive-thru clinic or elsewhere to get their COVID-19 shot.

But on Friday they only had to travel a flight or two down from their rooms in the senior living facility to get a Moderna vaccination at a mobile clinic that had been set up to help people just like them.

About 40 residents were tended to by nurses as part of the Lewis and Clark County Vaccine Planning Group’s Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination Initiative, which brings the vaccinations to those who may face hurdles in going to walk-in or drive-thru clinics. These mobile clinics are not open to the public. 

Margie Copenhaver, 83, was one of the people who signed up for Friday's event. 

“A lot of people don’t want to have those shots, but boy, I sure do,” she said soon after Registered Nurse Priscilla Cates gave her a dose.

Friday's clinic was the third this week, officials said, noting two other Helena facilities had such events and another was planned later Friday. Additional clinics are scheduled for later. 

Several local community organizations made the clinics possible, including Lewis and Clark Public Health, PureView Health Center, St. Peter's Health and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Care Van Program.

The Eagles Manor census tract is located in an area of moderate to high vulnerability, based on a nationwide Social Vulnerability Index taken from census information, officials said. They added that based on the data, the facility has a higher risk for severe complications from the coronavirus or for becoming a COVID-19 hot spot. The planning group worked with Lewis and Clark County Epidemiologist Dorota Carpenedo to determine areas for the mobile clinics. The SVI is an online database that gives census tracts a social vulnerability score based on 15 data points, including transportation and race/ethnicity, poverty level.

An Eagle’s Manor official said they have had four confirmed cases of COVID-19, but no deaths attributed to the illness. She said several staff members have had it.

“We are very careful here and proactive,” Bobbie Sue Carothers, service coordinator at Eagle’s Manor, said.

Carothers said Friday’s event was going well.

“I am so excited you can’t even imagine,” she said. “Getting the vaccine into the arms of residents helps us get back to normalcy.”

People will get the second dose of the vaccine in 28 days, officials said.

Jill Steeley, chief executive officer of PureView, was at Eagles Manor on Friday morning.

“I think it’s great,” she said, adding she was happy they could provide the service. She said some of the residents did not have quick access to transportation and officials wanted to make it easier for them to get vaccinations.

Steeley said some people with certain socioeconomic factors are more at risk for COVID-19.

Lewis and Clark Public Health Communicable Disease Division Administrator Eric Merchant stopped by to see the progress.

"I think this is going really well," he said.

The shots were given the same day the state reported another 393 cases of the respiratory illness, bringing the total to 91,049. Of those reports, 4,850 cases remain active. There have been 1,104 deaths in Montana related to the coronavirus since it surfaced March 11.

In Lewis and Clark County, there were 33 new cases reported on the state website Friday. There have been 5,671 total cases, of which 382 remain active. There have been 50 deaths.

Lewis and Clark Public Health reported Friday that 3,800 people in the county have received the first dose of the vaccine. The U.S. Census Bureau said that as of 2019, the county had about 69,400 residents.

Only those eligible for Phase 1B, Tier 1 (people age 70 and older) will be vaccinated at the mobile clinics, officials said.

Carothers said Eagles Manor has 135 residents and that 70 people had signed up for shots. That list was whittled down when it was announced doses would be available only for those 70 and older.

The data compiled by the CDC in October is being used to help determine areas for future clinics. The local partners plan to host closed point-of-distribution mobile clinics in partnership with other community organizations and in other rural Lewis and Clark County communities when the vaccine supply becomes available.

For more information on local COVID-19 vaccination distribution, visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Hub at lccountymt.gov.

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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