Ken Chartland, the pharmacy manager at the Curry Health Center, prepares one of three ultra-low temperature freezers that Covid-19 vaccines will be stored in on the UM campus on December 17, 2020.

The University of Montana has been named by the state of Montana as a provider and distributor of COVID 19 vaccines in Montana.

UM Pharmacy Manager Ken Chatriand spoke to KGVO News on Monday and explained why the university is uniquely qualified to distribute the vaccines.

“Thankfully, here at the university with our robust research team, we actually have ultra low freezers already here on campus ready to go,” said Chatriand. “These freezers are really hard to find out in our communities right now, just because of the need and the demand for them, so they're very, very expensive. We were happy that we already had them and our research office decided to really tighten its belt and move some space in that way so we could offer these freezers to the state. That way we can store those vaccines in the ultra low freezer, so it's pretty amazing.”

Chatriand said the university pharmacy will be ready to administer both vaccines when they arrive.

“As soon as we do get those vaccines on board, we are an approved site to administer those vaccines as well,” he said. “We have a plan in place to not only help out our campus community, obviously, that's part of our focus, that we want a healthy and safe environment for our students to learn and thrive, but we also want to make sure that we're giving back to our community.”

Chatriand referenced the renowned UM School of Pharmacy and its reputation for excellence.

“We have the Skagg’s School of Pharmacy here, and a lot of pharmacists and have alumni that have all partnered together to make sure that we're offering this to our communities as well,” he said. “So we'll be able to run vaccine clinics and include other individuals, so we need to work with the university, which I think is an amazing opportunity for the University of Montana to give back and really show that our medical and our health care profession is robust and we're doing a great job.”

Chatriand detailed the categories of people who will be in line to receive the COVID vaccines after the initial group of frontline healthcare personnel and residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

“When that opens up in the different phases, you'll see people age 65 and older, or people that may have other diseases that if they do end up getting COVID, that they might have a worse outcome or they might not be able to get better from it and end up in the hospital setting,” he said. “Those are going to people with asthma, diabetes and heart disease, things like that. So those people are going to be a little bit higher priority than the general public who is healthy, but it will at some point open up for those individuals as well.”

This year, UM broke a record for the largest amount of research expenditures in school history, exceeding $100 million for the first time in University history. A bulk of the grant awards were in UM’s health and bioscience fields and UM’s Center for Translational Medicine. In February, that center was awarded $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to produce a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.


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