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The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in Montana

EMT's and Frontline Healthcare Workers Receive Covid Vaccination In Montana
A health care worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Livingston.
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En español | Who can get vaccinated now?

  • Montanans 70 and older
  • Residents and staff at long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living communities
  • People age 16 to 69 with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease that put them at the highest risk for serious complications from COVID-19
  • Health care workers who work in frontline positions or have direct patient contact  
  • Native Americans and other people of color at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications 

County and tribal health departments are allocating vaccines at the local level and have leeway to set priorities based on local demographics, the state Department of Public Health and Human Services says. For example, some jurisdictions begin vaccinating residents age 80 and over, then move to those 70 to 79.

Where can I get a vaccine?  

  • Vaccine supplies are limited everywhere and available only to those now eligible under each state’s phased plan. Most vaccine sites require you to schedule an appointment online or by phone. Appointments can be very hard to get, as available time slots are booked quickly, and you may experience long wait times on the phone. If a time slot is not available, you may be put on the site’s waiting list. Some people are signing up at multiple sites to increase chances of getting an appointment. Once you have a confirmed appointment, public health officials ask that you don’t schedule or confirm another with any other provider so that vaccine appointments stay open for others.

AARP recommends that you talk to your doctor about the safety, effectiveness, benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

What should I bring to my vaccination appointment? 

Some vaccination sites ask for proof of identity or eligibility. Officials recommend that you bring a driver’s license or other state-issued ID that shows your name, age and state residency, and your health insurance card, if you have one. You will not be charged, but the vaccine provider may bill your insurer a fee for administering the vaccine.   

If you are eligible due to an underlying medical condition or comorbidity, you may need a note from your doctor or some other form of proof. If you are eligible on the basis of your work, bring proof of employment such as a pay stub, badge or letter from your employer. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says to wear a mask at your appointment. 

Who will be eligible to get vaccinated next?

The state is in Phase 1b of its vaccination plan, which is being expanded to include all Montanans 60 and older and those ages 16 to 59 with medical conditions that put them at high risk for COVID-19 complications. People in these categories, which the state is grouping as Phase 1b+, can start receiving shots March 8.

Phase 1c, which the state health department estimates will begin in mid- to late spring, includes frontline essential workers such as teachers, first responders and grocery store staff and people living in group care homes and corrections facilities.

Phase 2, encompassing the rest of the state’s 16-and-older population, is scheduled to start by late summer. Check the state health department’s vaccine information page for updates or contact your local or tribal health department.

AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has shown that older people are at higher risk of death.

How are residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities getting vaccinated?  

The federal government contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer the COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to long-term care residents and staff. Montana is taking part in the federal program and working with a third partner, Big Sky Managed Care.

The three companies are operating on-site clinics at long-term care facilities to administer COVID-19 shots. They have finished providing first doses at all facilities and should complete administering second doses by mid-March, according to state officials.

I’ve heard that some vaccines require a second shot.

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these, you’ll need a follow-up dose to be effectively immunized. The recommended second-shot date is three weeks after a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for Moderna’s, but the CDC says an interval of up to six weeks is acceptable. You should get a card from your provider saying when and where to return for the second dose. The state says it will send reminders via text, emails and phone calls.   

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine requires just one shot.  

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like a flu shot. 

Do I have to pay for the vaccination? 

You should not have any out-of-pocket cost for getting the vaccine. AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. Providers can recoup a fee for administering the shot but not from consumers. They would be reimbursed by the patient’s insurance company or the government (in the case of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured, for example).

Scammers are purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP's Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.  

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated?  

Yes. The vaccines are just one tool that can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC continues to recommend preventive measures such as face masks, physical distancing and frequent handwashing.

Experts still need to learn more about the protection the vaccines provide under “real-world conditions,” the CDC says. It could take a few weeks for your body to build up immunity after the second dose and months for the population to build up collective immunity.

In addition, it’s not yet clear how effective the vaccines are against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus initially identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, although they would still provide some protection.  

This guide, published Jan. 7, was updated March 3 with information on Montana expanding vaccine eligibility.

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