By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Department of Health is expanding the eligibility pool for Wyomingites who can pre-register to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
People who are 65 years of age and older, those with certain medical conditions and their caregivers who may be otherwise ineligible for vaccination can now pre-register to receive a vaccine.
The expansion includes people who have specific diagnosed illnesses or conditions that put them at greater risk of more serious COVID-19 disease.
“As the pandemic has continued we have seen that people with certain health challenges are clearly more likely to become severely ill when they are infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH. “These vaccines can help protect these individuals.”
Health conditions considered to put people at higher risk for COVID include cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, pulmonary conditions, compromised immune systems and neurological disorders such as strokes or dementia.
Certain groups of frontline essential workers who interact with the public and are unable to consistently physically distance from others are also now eligible to register for vaccination.
Vaccinations for these groups will mostly be arranged through employers, who should expect to be contacted by local public health agencies to schedule vaccinations for their workers.
“It’s very important for people to understand counties are moving through the priority groups at different paces based on the number of people in each group and uptake at the county level,” said Angie Van Houten, Community Health Section chief with WDH. “This means there are differences in progress and availability based on where you live.”
Specific registration processes also vary from county to county within Wyoming.
At least 92,000 Wyoming residents have received at least their first doses so far when state and special federal counts are combined.
Van Houten noted shipments of Moderna doses delayed by national weather last week arrived on Monday. Moderna shipments expected for this week’s allocation may arrive later in the week than usual as distributors work to catch up.
The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which began last week with several Walmart locations in Wyoming, is expanding this week to include Walgreens in Casper, Riverton, Laramie, and Gillette and NorthStar Pharmacy in Cheyenne.
Important reminders about COVID-19 vaccines include:
- The currently authorized vaccines require two doses for maximum protection.
- The vaccines are free.
- Insurance is not required to receive a vaccine.
- Some people may be asked to show Medicare or insurance cards so professionals giving shots can get reimbursed.
- For most people it is best to receive vaccines in the county where they live.
Wyoming’s phased approach is needed because there aren’t enough vaccines currently for everyone who wants them.
Priority groups are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the WDH medical ethics committee.
Harrist said it remains important to continue wearing masks, to keep social distancing and to stay home when ill unless seeking medical help while vaccination efforts continue.