UPDATE: 2/1/21 Billings Gazette article with updated vaccine info
This morning Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at 7:24 am, I received my first dose of a vaccine for COVID-19 at Billings Clinic. I was able to receive the vaccine because on Monday, January 18, Yellowstone County expanded availability to Phase IB.
This new phase includes the following people:
- Ages 70 and older
- Ages 16-69 who have specific underlying health conditions
- American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk
Those underlying health conditions include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 1&2 Diabetes mellitus
- On a case-by-case basis, medical providers may include individuals with other conditions that place them at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.
My experience was mostly quite smooth. My appointment was for 7:40 am, but being my mother’s son, I arrived at the Clinic at 7:10 am. I went inside and there were several employees at the door screening temperatures and directing traffic. The line for vaccination was short and moved quickly. There was minimal paperwork, and everything ran smoothly. Everyone was quite nice and friendly. As I said before, I got my shot at 7:24, sixteen minutes before my appointment. Then I was directed to a comfy waiting area to wait for fifteen minutes to make sure there were no immediate adverse side effects. While waiting there, a clerk came by and scheduled my booster shot. I was quite impressed! Then, at 7:39 am, I got up to leave and a nurse explained what to expect in the next few days and what to be on the look out for.
But you might wonder, how did I get my appointment? Well, luck. I was up early on this past Monday morning to schedule through Billings Clinic because that is where I have established care. I tried by calling their vaccine line (406-435-5744), but the message said to call back after 8 am. Then, I tried the PatientConnect online platform (www.billingsclinic.com/patientconnect) but it didn’t seem to yet be working. So, I kept trying the website over and over, reloading the site. Then at almost exactly 8 am, it worked and there were several open slots for Wednesday morning. I took the first one I found. This process worked for me well, but I know it hasn’t for everyone. I encourage people to be persistent.
For those who are established with a provider at St. Vincent’s, you can call to schedule an appointment (406-237-7050) or go online and sign up for vaccine notifications for when an appointment might be available (https://www.sclhealth.org/vaccineform/). For those without established care, the county health department, RiverStone Health is also providing vaccines (406-651-6596) or https://forms.gle/HQJwt5hbTjDeaNMh7.
I share all of this because I want to be transparent and also encourage everyone to get a vaccine as soon as it is available. This is how we can begin to get back to normal. And, I will get my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on… Ash Wednesday.
Finally, I want to end with a prayer for healthcare providers and all those who helped to get these vaccines to us. We are in their debt and must thank them and God.
Prayer for Doctors and Nurses (and All in Healthcare Vocations)
Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen