St. James and Butte-Silver Bow Unified Health Command holds largest single-day vaccination event

Silver Bow County has two vaccination clinics a week. Wednesdays are for first doses and Tuesdays are for second doses, but when it comes to the brand you get — Pfizer or Moderna — one has a 21-day window between shots and the other has a 28-day window between shots. The county gets whatever brand the state sends them. On March 23, it panned out that two rounds of people needed to come in for their second shots on the same day.

Almost 2,200 people filed through the Butte Civic Center doors in one day. It’s an arena that’s able to host over three times that many people but it hasn’t seen a crowd like that all year after a pandemic forced many people home, waiting for a way to feel safe again.

“This is really one of the biggest social events of the year for people because they’ve been stuck in their houses and so there is a lot of people here and Butte’s a small town so everybody knows everybody,” said St. James Director of Pharmacy, Risik Rask, Pharm. D.

Butte’s healthcare workers took one big step closer to a goal that once seemed unobtainable. A goal to vaccinate enough people to keep the spread of COVID-19 under control. In Silver Bow County, 28,000 people are eligible for vaccines. Just over 7% of the eligible population got their second dose in one day.

“We’re that much closer to getting that pandemic behind us,” said Rask.

The mood was light in the arena.

“I couldn’t be in a happier place right now that it is finally coming to an end,” said local celebrity, Chris Fisk after getting his second shot Tuesday.

“This has been a long, challenging year for everybody. I teach. And now I can teach a little more relaxed,” he said.

That feeling of hope doesn’t come as easily to other areas of the nation where the vaccination process hasn’t been distributed as efficiently.

“Silver Bow is one of the leading counties in Montana for vaccinations. So, if you look at the number per thousand, we’re one of the top counties in the state and Montana is in the top tier of the states in the country. So that puts Silver Bow as one of the top counties in the country for vaccinations. That’s a huge, huge honor to be able to do that,” said St. James president, Jay Doyle.

It would not have been possible without all the hard work and cooperation from the associates at St. James, Butte-Silver Bow County, Southwest Montana Community Health Center, The North American Indian Alliance, and the Butte Civic Center.

“That group has just been phenomenal. They put all of it together… and they’re down here every week doing this,” said Doyle.

“I think we’re just really proud. St. James has been a huge player and a huge leader in this whole clinic and it’s just cool to be a part of,” said Rask.

Rask is one of the leaders of the clinic. He said their goals at the beginning were to make sure the clinics aren’t intimidating, they didn’t want people to wait in line and they wanted the experience to be quick, efficient, and easy.

“I think we’ve kind of accomplished that. People come through and you hear from everybody - a well-oiled machine. You hear that a lot,” said Rask.

“As you walk through the door, you’re sat down and you’re up and out in like 20 minutes. It’s that efficient,” confirmed Fisk.

Efficiency is key to getting shots in that many arms.

“We’ve skipped a lot in our Butte lives, in our community lives, but by God thanks to this and you know, St. James and all the efforts of the health department and everyone, we get to go back to that. It’s going to be slowly but we get to go back and that’s a blessing,” said Fisk.

Please visit co.silverbow.mt.us or call the Butte-Silver Bow COVID-19 information hotline at 406-497-5008 for more information about getting the vaccine.


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