COVID Vaccination Choices Split Families And Communities In Rural Montana : Shots - Health News - NPR
May 11, 2021 2 mins, 16 secs
John Calhoun of Flathead County has diabetes and was convinced by an old friend to get vaccinated, through he suspects the coronavirus isn't as dangerous as health officials say it is.

John Calhoun of Flathead County has diabetes and was convinced by an old friend to get vaccinated, through he suspects the coronavirus isn't as dangerous as health officials say it is.

The COVID-19 vaccination operation at the Flathead County fairgrounds in northwestern Montana can dole out 1,000 doses in seven hours.

"It's a trickle," says Flathead City-County Health Officer Joe Russell.

That possibility further strains year-old tensions in places such as Flathead County, where strangers and family members alike can be split on whether the virus is a threat and the decision to wear a mask marks where people stand.

Most of the chairs for people to wait 15 minutes post-shot remained empty and, by early afternoon, the clinic had to send 200 of its vaccine doses to the county health department to avoid wastage.

A recent COVID-19 vaccination clinic held at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Mont., was ready to vaccinate at least 100 people.

A recent COVID-19 vaccination clinic held at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Mont., was ready to vaccinate at least 100 people.

Although organizers had hoped to vaccinate at least 100 people that day, Audra Saranto, a registered nurse who heads Kalispell Regional Healthcare's vaccination team, says she counts the college event as a success — 50 people got vaccines who might otherwise not have.

Flathead's board of health deadlocked over mask rules and crowd size limits amid the area's worst COVID-19 outbreaks.

Two top county health officials resigned in the past year.

Thousands of people have signed dueling petitions to remove or keep one board of health member who had stirred doubt over COVID-19 cases and opposed mask rules.

Keith Regier, a Republican who repeated false claims on the Senate floor last month that COVID-19 vaccines might contain microchips to track people.

At a recent Flathead county vaccination event, John Calhoun, 67, undid his pearl snap shirt to get his second shot and joked with the nurse, "I'm doing this so Joe Biden doesn't throw me in jail.".

He believes COVID-19 is real but doesn't think it's as serious as health officials claim, even though he has diabetes, a risk factor for complications from COVID-19.

When it comes to COVID-19, she says, she'd rather risk the virus than be injected with vaccines that feel too new, despite decades of research underpinning their unprecedented development

Lengacher says Flathead was hit so hard this winter, she hopes some natural immunity that arose among community members infected with the virus then, along with growing vaccination levels, will be enough to hold off further outbreaks over the next few months


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