Carbon County COVID-19 Updates

Carbon County COVID-19 Vaccination Update 1/12/2021

How to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in Carbon County.

When vaccines arrive, Carbon County will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to persons included in Montana’s 1B Phase Group. Details of this phase inclusion criteria can be found at carbonalert.org. This initial phase targets those most at risk for severe COVID disease. Generally, it includes anyone 70 years of age and older, people of color including Native Americans and other at-risk groups and those ages 16-69 years old with any of the nine listed high-risk medical conditions.

The vaccination process will look very different than receiving a flu shot. Limited supply arriving weekly will require to be placed on a list of vaccine interest, which will be notified via email or phone in the order you were placed on the list.

Phase 1B is a large group and will take several weeks to complete. Hopefully, Montana will begin vaccinating this group in the next two weeks. You may be called sooner if vaccines are available. There are three local organizations (see below) providing COVID-19 vaccines. Please, do not join more than one vaccine list. Thanks everyone for your patience. I am sure there will be important updates involving vaccine supplies, side effects and efficacy. We will do our best to keep you informed.

COVID-19 Carbon County vaccine providers:

  • Carbon County Public Health. Vaccine interest survey (preferred) located at carbonalert.org. If unable access this form, or difficulty filling out call 446-9941 between the hours of 10am – 12-pm, Monday through Friday.
  • Beartooth Billings Clinic. Call 406-446-2345, 7am-6pm Monday through Friday.
  • Riverstone Health Clinics in Bridger and Joliet. call 406-662-3740. 8am-5pm, Monday through Friday.

Bill George MD, Carbon County Public Health Officer

 

Letters and Updates from Dr. William George,
Carbon County Public Health Officer

Yesterday, a second COVID-19 vaccine was approved for Emergency Use by the FDA. Like the Pfizer vaccine, this vaccine, manufactured by Moderna, is a mRNA vaccine – described in the last update. Vaccine efficacy is over 95% after the second shot is received. Initially, it is reserved for those 18 yrs and older. Shipments will begin this weekend and we expect  vaccines to arrive in Carbon County in 1-2 weeks.

This vaccine is not as temperature sensitive, and therefore easier to store and distribute in smaller communities. The first phase of local vaccinations will be available to hospital staff, and those who work in emergency services including, ambulance, fire and law enforcement. High risk institutional residents and their staff will also be prioritized.

Vaccine rollouts, and delivery continues at record speed but the demand is great worldwide. Estimates on availability to the general public seem to agree on a timeline of this spring. On the positive side, that delay will give time for more data on efficacy and possible delayed side effects.

I mentioned that I would share my (and colleagues) experience with the Pfizer vaccine. We all noticed a short lived, injection site mild pain, while a few folks noted fatigue and a mild headache. Apparently, the data shows more side effects after the second shot.

Remember……Vaccines don’t end pandemics, vaccinations do!

Stay safe everyone and have a great Holiday season.

Bill George MD

Carbon County Public Health Officer

Ten months ago, on March 13, 2020, COVID-19 was first confirmed in a Montana resident. This week, the first vaccine to be approved for Emergency Use (EU) will arrive in Montana. There is a lot of excitement for COVID -19 vaccines as it may mean the beginning of the end for this pandemic, however, the unprecedented speed of vaccine development has caused concerns of safety and efficacy for many people. I hope these next several updates help with your decision whether to get vaccinated. There are several COVID-19 vaccines in development – differing in how they achieve immunity. We will try to keep you up to date on relevant data as it is being gathered and/or point you to credible resources which will keep us all informed in an easy-to-understand format. Health care providers working with COVID-19 patients are prioritized to be vaccinated. My research into the Pfizer vaccine (1st to be approved), and the independent process for emergency approval has given me the confidence to be vaccinated. I plan to share my own experience with the vaccine, along with feedback from my colleagues.

  • It is thought that at least 70% of people will need immunity either from the COVID vaccine or natural immunity from previous infection to achieve herd immunity and break widespread transmission.
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  • Conventional vaccines work by exposing someone to a weakened or killed virus or piece of virus, causing a defense response (antibodies) which will attack the live virus if exposed. The first 2 vaccines available (Pfizer and Moderna) are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. These vaccines will direct your body to create a COVID -like spike protein which then your body will create a defense response against. Evidence suggests this process creates a safer and more precise vaccine. Although mRNA vaccines have been studied for many years, this is the first commercial large-scale use of this type of vaccine.
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  • These mRNA vaccines have been shown to be approx. 95% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease. Although large populations were studied, the short time frame for follow up (2 months) left many questions unanswered – ongoing monitoring of vaccine recipients will likely resolve these.
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  • Studies are ongoing to determine the duration of time the immunity lasts after the two-shot sequence as well as any delayed side effects that may occur from the vaccine. In addition, vaccine developers are continuing to study how easily an immunized person can transmit the virus if exposed. Finally, the vaccine has not yet been adequately studied in children and therefore not recommended for those under 16 years of age.
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  • Details on vaccine supplies for Montana, timelines and priority groups should be available soon.

I know there is much more to discuss concerning these first vaccines, including potential side effects. A good, updated resource is the FAQ concerning COVID-19 vaccines by Mayo Clinic:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid-19/vaccine

As you investigate and follow the rollout of these vaccines, please expect to hear disinformation from individuals and groups who oppose all vaccines. Reliable ongoing evidence of safety and efficacy will be available – remember, anecdote and evidence are not the same thing.

The end of a memorable 2020 finally brings hope to communities and health systems continuing to struggle the effects of this virus and the measures to control it. These new vaccines are a remarkable achievement that I believe may help finally put this pandemic behind us.

Bill George MD, Carbon County Public Health Officer

This is an important update for close contacts to positive COVID-19 patients. As we continue to learn how COVID-19 is transmitted by those without symptoms but have been designated a close contact to a positive COVID person, CDC has now reduced the quarantine period from 14 to 10 days. In other words, it seems that the risk of transmitting the virus after 10 days is small for those who continue to have no symptoms throughout that time. Remember, Day 0 in your count to 10 is the day that you were last exposed to the positive person. After 10 days you are still advised to watch for symptoms closely and practice the usual mitigation measures including masking in public, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds and high-risk individuals.

The other important news in this topic is that the 10 days discussed above can be shortened to 7 days. This is done by getting a test (PCR or rapid test) on at least day 5 of your quarantine. If this is negative and you still have no symptoms at day 7, then you are good to go – of course watching for symptoms closely and being careful with mitigation. Certainly, this path to 7 days assumes there is capacity of personnel and testing supplies for this purpose, and results are available in 48 hours from day 5. We will continue to prioritize using our tests to diagnose COVID -19 in symptomatic people.
Overall, considering the social, emotional, and economic harm of quarantine, this is good news for the management of the disease. We will continue to strive for the best access for quality testing with rapid results, which is crucial in our work to suppress this prevalent illness in our county, state, and nation.
This is the CDC link for this new update: https://www.cdc.gov/…/scientific-brief-options-to…

Bill George MD, Carbon County Public Health Officer

Carbon County Public Health is reporting 3 additional deaths of Carbon County residents due to COVID-19: Two males, ages 77 and 56 and one female age 89. The families and friends of these residents have our deepest sympathy of their loss to this tragic illness.

As expected with our rapidly increasing infection rate, we have numerous residents presently hospitalized due to COVID -19. Please keep these patients, as well as the families who are grieving their loss in your thoughts and prayers during this holiday season.

The recent devasting effects of this new illness in Montana and nationwide can bring a sense of futility to our situation. Please remember, these injuries and deaths are preventable and not inevitable. Careful attention to mask wearing, distance, and avoiding groups outside of your households will bring our infection rate down appreciably. This will create a safer environment for our most vulnerable, assure an open economy and operating schools as we wait for effective vaccines.  

Bill George MD, Carbon County Public Health Officer

Carbon County Public Health reports another death due to COVID-19. The victim, a female in her 50’s, brings the total death count to eight. Please keep her family in your thoughts as we continue through the holiday season and into the new year. Public Health encourages you to remain mindful of precautionary measures including social distancing, masking up, and hand washing to avoid another spike in cases. 

Carbon County Public Health sadly reports another death due to COVID-19. The female age 103, brings the total death count to nine. Our deepest condolences to her family. Residents are asked to please continue to take precautionary measures around high-risk populations. Social distancing, hand washing, and masking up all help reduce the spread of the virus. Please continue checking for the latest COVID-19 information and statistics.