By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
That’s the percentage of the population of Wyoming that has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
That places our state 18th in the nation – way ahead of neighboring Utah (which comes in dead last, with less than 10% of its residents receiving the vaccine), but behind Montana, Nebraska and Colorado (9th, 14th and 16th, respectively).
In a state whose population stands around 582,000, 85,500 of those have been fully vaccinated.
So a year after the virus began to shut down the world, a significant percentage of the population is now considered immune to its effect – but there’s a lot more work to do, according to public health officials in the state.
Wyoming Health Department spokeswoman Kim Deti, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Monday, said there is a reluctance on the part of some to get the vaccine.
“We’re confident in the vaccines, we believe that they’re safe. We believe that they work. But we know that it’s natural for some people to have questions about vaccines – that totally makes sense,” she said.
Bill Crampton is the Public Health Nursing Supervisor in Park County, where the vaccination rate is significantly higher than the statewide average.
As of Monday, more than 13,000 residents have been either fully or partially vaccinated — 43% of the population. He pointed out that despite seeing a slower rollout than many states, Wyoming has done an excellent job of getting vaccines into the arms of the people who need them — in part, he said, because health officials have been conducting flu vaccine clinics for years.
“At a local level, we’ve been practicing this for years, so it’s not like we didn’t know what we were going to do,” he said. “Give us a vaccine and stand back. We’ll get her done. And we’ve done that.”
But now Park County health officials have a problem that’s completely opposite of their initial obstacles: For a clinic that’s scheduled for this Wednesday, fewer than half of the 600 available vaccine appointments for the day have been filled.
Crampton said there may still be confusion in the public about who is eligible for the shots.
“I think we’re reaching that point where there’s still some hesitancy, there’s still some misinformation out there about who’s eligible and what’s available and things like that,” he said.
Crampton noted that because of the availability of the vaccine, health care providers are not being picky when people come to the clinics to request a shot.
“We’re not doing a lot of screening — which is different from what it was early on because of the limited numbers, and we wanted to get our seniors vaccinated,” he explained. “But I gotta tell you, it’s amazing to watch these clinics and see how many seniors are still coming through. Not sure exactly why it’s taken some of them so long to get there. But we’re glad they’re doing it.”
And for anyone who wants the vaccine and hasn’t had it yet, he said, come on in.
“We’re right on the verge of just opening this wide open to the general population,” he said. But there are those who are still hesitant about receiving the vaccine — whether it’s because of misinformation or the fact that there are medical professionals who still haven’t taken it themselves, Crampton said it’s hard to say.
“Some physicians are actually publicly saying that they don’t want their patients to get the vaccine,” he said. “Why? Well, I haven’t been able to determine that. And I know there’s a significant number of people here who have physicians locally who hadn’t gotten the vaccine.”
Deti added that every single adult in the state should get the vaccine as soon as it’s available — and in some places, that’s right now.
“In most places, really, vaccines have been open to anyone,” Deti said. “Availability does vary among counties somewhat, and it’s good to check in to see what the information is, and what is going on in your area.”
So Deti stressed that knowledge is best ally of health care providers.
“What we want to do is make sure that people know how and where to find the answers to their questions,” she said. “And there’s some great resources out there, we’ve tried to highlight them on our website. And we do want to remind people, they’re free as well.”
In Park County, Crampton acknowledged that the vaccine rollout wouldn’t be going this well without the partnership of businesses and organizations throughout the communities.
“Those partners include Billings Clinic, Medical Center Pharmacy, Cody Regional Health, Powell Valley’s Heritage Health, and now we’ve got Walmart, Walgreens,” he said. “And as of this week, the Albertsons pharmacy is also going to start using the vaccine. So we’ve got lots of partners in the community that are helping us make this a success.”
For information about the COVID-19 response in Wyoming, Deti urges residents to go to their website at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/immunization/wyoming-covid-19-vaccine-information/