The Missoula City County Health Department’s Epidemiological Situation Unit held a ZOOM press conference on Wednesday to provide an update on the effort to reach herd immunity through vaccination against COVID 19.

Incoming Health Officer D’Shane Barnett opened by providing some encouraging news about how Missoula is leading the state in COVID 19 vaccinations.

“When we look at the data, Missoula County is leading the state in COVID-19 vaccination and I think we have a lot to be proud of,” said Barnett. “I think that that's also because of the very proactive education work that has been done. That being said, we are not where we need to be. We are not at the target level for you what would be considered herd immunity, especially what we saw in the data is for our under 30 year olds, those 29, and under, we really need them to step up and get the vaccine.”

Situation Unit Leader Sarah Hunting provided the current vaccination statistics.

“61.1% of Missoula County's eligible population has received at least one dose, and  33.6% of Missoula County's total population has received at least one dose,” said Hunting. “Additionally, 52.3% of Missoula County's eligible population is fully vaccinated and 43.7% of Missoula County's total population is fully vaccinated.”

Dr. Sophia Newcomer, PhD at the UM School of Public and Community Health Sciences addressed the concern that some are hesitant to get vaccinated due to reports of illness possibly connected with the COVID vaccines, that the CDC is being transparent about the issue.

“One is the fact that CDC is reporting so proactively about these few cases of heart inflammation that have been reported is a sign that they're really trying to be very transparent about these vaccines, and about any potential safety issues with this particular issue that's been brought up,” said Dr. Newcomer. “There has not been a conclusive link between the vaccine and heart inflammation established, but they wanted to be proactive. They wanted to be transparent and communicate early about it.”

Dr. Newcomer emphasized the fact that the CDC’s safety systems are working.

“Reports like these show that these systems that we have in place to detect even potentially very rare adverse events work, and they work well,” she said. “So I think that should provide some reassurance about all the work that goes on to continuously monitor and study the safety of vaccines.”

Two recently vaccinated high school and college students also spoke to the media about their experience with the COVID 19 vaccinations.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.