By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
An analysis reporting that the deaths of nearly 940 Wyoming residents from COVID-19 could have been prevented if they had been vaccinated is being questioned by some state health experts.
On Friday, researchers at researchers at Brown School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health released an analysis that estimated the number of coronavirus deaths that could have been prevented in each state by vaccination since the COVID vaccine became available at the start of 2021.
According to the report, Wyoming could have experienced 938 fewer deaths — a reduction of almost 70% from the total of 1,376 deaths coronavirus-related deaths the report said the state saw between January of 2021 and April of this year.
The state Department of Health reported the number of deaths between January of 2021 and April at 1,222.
The report raises some quesitons, as there are several factors it does not take into consideration, according to Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti and Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department director Kathy Emmons.
“There were more than 1,000 COVID-19 related deaths confirmed in 2021 and around 200 so far this year,” Deti said. “We absolutely believe than many of those deaths could have likely been prevented had more people in Wyoming made the choice to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but don’t have a specific estimate.”
Emmons agreed some deaths could have been prevented by the vaccine. But the issue with COVID, she said, is that it can set off other health issues.
“Say I have COPD and then I get COVID,” Emmons said. “The COVID exacerbates the COPD and I die, but my system is weakened due to both the COVID and the COPD.”
She added it is possible 938 people could have been saved if they had received the vaccine, it was still hard to confirm the figure, which assumes that everyone who could take the vaccine would get it.
Emmons added that no health official in the state expected Wyoming to be at a 100% vaccination rate, so another challenge with the analysis is that it is based on vaccination rates that state officials knew would never happen.
“There are all of these other conditions that come into place,” she said. “We are still, 100 years later, trying to figure out how many people died from the Spanish flu in 1917. I just don’t think we have the time behind us yet to know the actual numbers.”
The first COVID vaccine dose in Wyoming was administered in December 2020 and the vaccines became widely available in the state in March 2021.