BOZEMAN – Preparations to distribute COVID-19 vaccines at Montana State University are continuing, with the first doses administered to frontline health care workers on campus last week.

With its initial 44 doses, MSU has provided vaccinations to most of its clinical workers at University Health Partners, the campus student health clinic, according to Jim Mitchell, associate vice president for student wellness.

Additionally, the state’s Department of Public Health and Human Services has authorized the university to provide doses for students who are in clinical programs where they have contact with patients.

This includes approximately 215 students in the College of Nursing, the WWAMI Regional Medical Education Program, the Regional Initiatives in Dental Education, and Gallatin College’s programs in phlebotomy and surgical and medical assistants. Vaccines for those students could be provided as early as next week, depending on the supplies available.

In December, MSU was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be a COVID-19 vaccine provider. As part of that approval, the university prepared the freezers needed to store the various vaccines, including units that can reach at least 80 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, as required for the Pfizer vaccine and freezers to store the Moderna vaccine at temperatures between minus-13 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

A number of freezers are already in place at University Health Partners, and MSU expects another ultra-cold freezer to be installed this month, Mitchell said. All the UHP freezers are also hooked to emergency backup generators.

Planning at MSU is still ongoing for wider vaccine availability for students. Currently, the timeline for distribution and the quantities of doses that will be available are still being finalized at the state and federal levels.