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Montana teachers to get COVID-19 shots starting next week

March 6, 2021 GMT

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Educators in Montana will begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines next week through a federal partnership with pharmacies, local health officials confirmed Friday.

President Joe Biden announced the program earlier this week, with the goal of vaccinating all teachers and child care staff by the end of March.

The federal vaccine program is open to Montana educators even as the state has not made its vaccine allotment available to teachers. Montana was one of at least a dozen states that had not prioritized teachers as of Biden’s announcement.

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In Missoula County, vaccines will be available to teachers through Granite Pharmacy, the Missoulian reported.

The pharmacy has enough doses to vaccinate all 2,000 educators in Missoula County, owner Eric Beyer told the Missoulian.

Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson said the district would hold mass vaccination clinics for staff in schools gymnasiums or theaters to allow for social distancing.

Chuck Council, a spokesperson for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, said the scope of the program remains “unclear” — including the total number of vaccines available in Montana through the federal program and the specific pharmacies participating.

Also next week, Montana residents ages 60 or older and those with chronic health conditions will become eligible for the virus. Previously, those ages 70 or older and with severe health conditions were eligible. Frontline essential workers are not yet eligible for the vaccine in the state, with the exception of health care workers.

When asked if the federal vaccination program for educators would change the state’s vaccination plan, Gov. Greg Gianforte’s spokesperson Brooke Stroyke said in an email that the governor’s office is “sorting through this unexpected federal mandate.”

While Gianforte has not prioritized teachers in the state’s vaccination plan, he has urged schools to remain fully open for in-person learning.