Milestone Moment

BCBSMT Care Van® Administers 10,000th Vaccine Since Program Inception in 2014

Nine-year-old Jaxon DuFresne said he wasn’t worried. His face, however, told a different story as the fourth-grader stuck out his tongue and clinched his eyes tightly shut upon receiving his flu shot.

Moments later, Jaxon had a Band-Aid on his shoulder and was all smiles while cutting a cake to kick off a celebration.

Jaxon’s shot carried with it more significance than the annual preventive measure leading into flu season. It also marked the 10,000th immunization that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) Care Van program played a role in delivering.

Jaxon’s mom, Crystal Kennedy, was appreciative of the ease and atmosphere of the flu shot clinic, which was held at Bryant Elementary School on Nov. 14. Lewis and Clark County Public Health partnered with the Care Van to provide the immunizations at the clinic.

“This is the second year we got our flu shots at the school,” Kennedy said. “It is very convenient, and he is also more comfortable coming here. It is a safe environment, plus he said it didn’t hurt.”

The Care Van program, which made its debut in September 2014, is a community partnership and outreach program designed to help provide immunizations and other basic health care services. The Care Van focuses on rural and underserved areas of Montana, while also holding clinics in larger cities, helping to reduce barriers to care. The Care Van teams up with community health officials to administer vaccines at no cost, or low cost, to patients.


This is the second year we got our flu shots at the school. It is very convenient, and he is also more comfortable coming here. It is a safe environment, plus he said it didn’t hurt.

The visible centerpiece is the van, a mobile clinic equipped with everything needed to provide basic health care. There is enough room inside the van to set up two immunization stations and check in patients, with a medical-grade refrigerator and freezer to properly store vaccines. With the ability to transport immunizations and set up in a variety of locations, the Care Van is proving to be a valuable tool for county health departments and other providers.

“The Care Van program is a great model for providing preventive health care in rural and underserved communities across Montana,” said Jamey Petersen, administrator of the Care Van program. “The greatest asset to the Care Van, and a main reason this public-private partnership has flourished, is the outstanding relationships we have with public health departments and clinic staff. They believe in prevention and know how to best fill gaps in service. Because of that, in less than four years, the Care Van has tripled the number of immunizations the program helps provide annually.”

In the four months following the program’s launch, it helped coordinate 24 clinics in 15 communities, providing a total of 1,000 immunizations. Initial partnerships in 2014 included five county health departments and the Missoula Urban Indian Health Center.

Three years and more than 50,000 miles later, the Care Van’s impact has been felt in communities all across the state.

By the time the calendar closed on 2017, the recognizable white van traveled to 57 communities in 26 counties, while also making stops on 11 different Hutterite colonies. Clinics will have been conducted out east in Baker, down south in Lima, out west in Frenchtown, as far north as Havre, and everywhere in between. More than 3,100 vaccines were administered to Montanans this past year through the Care Van program and its partners.

“The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana Care Van Program has been instrumental in improving access to immunizations for many Toole County residents,” said Kristi Aklestad, Toole County Health Department director. “Residents who live in rural areas experience many barriers to receiving their immunizations; this program makes it easier for them because we come to where they live, work and play. Mobile immunization clinics improve access for our community members and we look forward to working with the Care Van Program every year to bring immunizations to those who need them most.”

A whirling odometer and thousands of immunizations provided aren’t the only proof that the Care Van program has grown. It also has expanded services. This past year, the Care Van played a vital role in helping provide rapid hepatitis C testing, sports physicals, lead testing, FIT Tests, emergency preparedness efforts, and it served as a learning tool for students attending the annual Montana HOSA conference in Helena.

The Care Van’s success in such a relatively short period of time is directly related to the many county health departments and providers that have partnered with the program. The Care Van program facilitates immunization clinics and helps partners accomplish the event goals. Ultimately, it is a team effort where the Care Van provides resources and support, and partners provide services.

These relationships, built through the common goal of creating a healthier Montana, have shaped the program and allowed for its success.

For more information or to set up a Care Van event, please contact Kamille Kirchberg at 406-437-5634 or