FILE – COVID-19 vaccine trials

(The Center Square) – Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said he is redirecting 19,500 unused COVID-19 vaccine doses to vulnerable residents in Phase 1B of the state's vaccination plan.

Gianforte said he received federal approval for the state 's redistribution plan.

“Every dose Montana receives is critical, which is why I promised you in my first week in office that we wouldn’t let vaccines sit on shelves," he said in a statement. "Today, we’re following through on that promise. By working together, we can protect more Montanans and save more lives.”

The 19,500 doses originally were shipped to CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate residents and staff of long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities.

Nearly 10,000 of the doses will be given to Montana residents who qualify for Phase 1B, allowing them to be fully vaccinated.

More doses will be given to Montana hospitals in the coming days.

Montana moved into Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution plan on Jan. 19.

"In Phase 1B, Montanans 70 years of age and older, 16 years of age and older with a high-risk underlying medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications are eligible to receive the vaccine," the governor's office said in a news release.