Care Van

Spectators peek inside the newly unveiled Care Van at the state Capitol in this 2014 IR file photo. The van, which belongs to Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Montana, is a mobile immunization unit that will travel the state providing immunizations for children. 

HELENA - The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana Care Van is traveling the state this fall helping provide free and reduced vaccines to get students up to date with the new school immunization requirements.

Starting Oct. 1, students in Montana’s public schools are required to be vaccinated against chickenpox and whooping cough. The requirement is new following a bill passed by the 2015 Legislature.

Bryan Haines, who runs the Care Van, said helping families meet that standard seemed a natural fit with the Care Van’s mission.

The van doesn’t actually provide the vaccinations, it partners with county health centers to facilitate distribution and awareness of the services.

“It’s a focus to get out to rural communities and give those county health offices another tool to help them raise immunization rates,” Haines said.

Since its inception in 2014, the van has helped administer more than 1,400 vaccinations in 14 counties, according to Haines. Over the next four months the van has as many scheduled appointments as it did during all of last year.

On Aug. 19, the van will be in Boulder, partnering with the Jefferson County Public Health Department to provide primarily whooping cough and chickenpox vaccines.

Haines said sometimes the van provides clinics in a fairly populated area, and other times it takes resources from a county clinic and brings the vaccinations to a remote town.

In early September, Haines said, the van is picking up nurses and vaccines at the Lincoln County health center then driving out to Troy for a clinic. It’ll make similar trips this fall in Granite, Sanders and Toole counties.

Haines said the van is free for county health offices and is just another tool to facilitate immunizations, which he referred to as the “cornerstone of public health.”

“I think it’s a win win for everyone involved,” he said.

County health departments can contact Haines to book a clinic with the care van by calling his office at 437-6198 or sending him an email at bryan_haines@bcbsmt.com.

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Alexander Deedy can be reached at 447-4081 or alexander.deedy@helenair.com

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