By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Department of Health has expanded eligibility for the state’s coronavirus vaccine priority groups to allow those age 65 and over to receive the vaccine.
The change, made to bring the state more in line with recently described national guidelines, also allows vaccinations for people with certain high-risk medical conditions.
The “Phase 1b” vaccination rules had previously allowed for those 70 and over to obtain the vaccine.
WDH is also offering an online pre-registration form to make it easy for priority populations to pre-register for vaccination, as well as a toll-free hotline that will provide easy access to vaccination information.
Those unable to visit the website for details about the priority groups or for county-specific information can call the WDH toll-free vaccine phone line at 800-438-5795. With high interest in the vaccine, call volumes may be high enough to cause delays.
While the phased effort to offer free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations is being expanded, overall vaccine supplies from the federal government remain low.
Essential frontline workers covered by Phase 1b will be contacted through their employers by local county health offices. Pre-registration for additional Phase 1 groups will be open in the coming months.
The limited number of available doses requires continued use of a phased approach to ensure vaccines reach those individuals most at risk and most impacted by the virus.
The overall Phase 1 plan describes three general groupings for early vaccine eligibility:
- Phase 1a includes healthcare providers, first responders, long-term care facility staff and others at high risk for exposure to COVID-19.
- Phase 1b now focuses on some frontline essential workers, individuals 65 and over and individuals with certain medical conditions.
- Phase 1c includes homeless individuals, people living in congregate settings and other essential workers as defined by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
While the Phase 1c priority group descriptions are now available, counties will likely not be vaccinating Phase 1c groups until later in the year due to limited vaccine supply.
“Counties are vaccinating people in both Phase 1a and some Phase 1b groups right now, and working through the priority groups based on what is most appropriate for their counties,” said Stephanie Pyle, Public Health Division senior administrator with WDH. “We are working with counties to help ensure vaccine is administered as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Wyoming’s prioritization schedule is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the WDH medical ethics committee.
“Unfortunately we don’t have enough doses to vaccinate everyone in these groups right away,” Pyle said. “We are asking for patience from our residents as we all wait for our turn to get the vaccine.”