As the number of people infected with the COVID-19 virus continues to rise in Wyoming, some who have already been vaccinated against the illness are wondering if they need a booster shot.
With the advance of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, hospitalizations are up around the region, and medical facilities are being stretched to their maximum. According to officials, well over 90% of those being hospitalized have not been vaccinated.
“Our facilities are pretty darn full,” said Bill Crampton, the Park County Public Health nursing supervisor. “Dr. (Aaron) Billin (the Park County Health Officer) is an (emergency room) doctor in Powell, and he’s had to call six or eight hospitals in the area to transfer people out. Just because we have a hospital here doesn’t mean we can provide the services that a big hospital can provide. And so sometimes we need to transfer people out, and there haven’t been places to transfer them to.”
But for those who have been fully vaccinated, the number of “breakthrough” infections is causing concern.
Among those who have already been vaccinated, Crampton said a large percentage — mostly seniors — are already asking whether they should receive a booster.
“There has been talk of a third dose, sometime in the future,” he said. “But it’s really early to even be discussing it. And you know, this push for a third dose may have to do with the fact that there are folks that are hesitant to get their first and second doses.”
Crampton said the percentage of people in Park County who have taken the first set of vaccines is still quite low.
“You know, 38% of the county is vaccinated right now,” he notes. “Which is good, it’s not great. It’s a little bit more than the state average. Our 65 and older group is the best covered group, which is important.”
Nationally, an estimated 52.4% of the population has been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
Crampton stressed that at this time there is no federal approval for a third dose of any of the COVID vaccines, although that may come eventually. Right now, only a small segment of the population should consider asking their doctor about a booster, he said.
“The Food and Drug Administration only approved a third dose for those people who are undergoing cancer treatment, blood problem treatment, anything that’s going to affect your immune system,” he said. “And when I say affect your immune system, I mean, you don’t get to go out in public, family can’t visit you, you’re wearing a mask all the time… Those are the kind of immune response problems that we’re talking about.”
And he explained that the data just doesn’t support the need for a booster shot for the COVID-19 vaccines.
“The medical community is educated by numbers,” he said. “We’re data driven, we don’t do things unless we’ve got a good amount of information based on it. And we still don’t have a full year’s worth of data on these vaccines. So, you know, folks are gonna want to see more long term information.
“Now, do vaccines sometimes require boosters? Absolutely. There’s no question about it,” he continued. “But let’s gather the information.”