Wyoming Has Spent $6.7 Million On Vax Advertising Since Mid-2020

The Wyoming Department of Health has spent $6.7 million in federal money trying to get people to be vaccinated since summer 2020 -- that included a TV commercial featuring an old west funeral where attendees lament the passing of “Wyatt,” who died of tetanus from shaving.

CM
Clair McFarland

August 24, 20234 min read

A column gathering in an Old-West setting of people mourning someone who died of shaving because he wasn't vaccinated for tetanus in a new ad by the Wyoming Department of Health.
A column gathering in an Old-West setting of people mourning someone who died of shaving because he wasn't vaccinated for tetanus in a new ad by the Wyoming Department of Health. (Wyoming Department of Health via YouTube)

The Wyoming Department of Health reports that it has spent nearly $6.7 million in federal funds on vaccine advertising since the summer of 2020.

For the last three years beginning July 1, 2020, the Wyoming Department of Health spent an estimated $1,990,888 on COVID-19 vaccine promotion, WDH spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily in an email. Most of those ads ran from spring 2021 through spring 2022.

The department has also spent an estimated $4,680,783 on vaccines for flu and other non-COVID diseases since the middle of 2020, Deti said.

Together, the state has spent a total of $6,671,671 trying to get Wyoming residents to be vaccinated.

None of that money came from the state’s coffers, said Deti. All of it was federal. The department’s immunization unit received a substantial grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Deti said.  

The department did not launch any vaccine advertising in 2019. It did “limited” paid flu vaccine advertising in some years prior, and the campaigns have always depended on funding availability, she said.

There were “small dips” in vaccination percentages nationwide before the pandemic, she continued, and the pandemic had “additional effects” on vaccine uptake.

But the department isn’t shelling out millions of dollars on vaccine advertising specifically because of hesitancy, though vaccine hesitancy may have “affected” the federal government’s grant funding availability, Deti said.

“Encouraging immunizations has clearly been a longtime priority for the department, but we haven’t always had funding to support that goal with paid advertising,” she said.  

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‘Thank A Vaccine’

The Wyoming Department of Health’s current “Thank A Vaccine” campaign includes TV, radio, newspaper, poster and digital ads, including on social media. It highlights the historic success of vaccination, said Deti.

“One reason affecting vaccination rates is likely that younger generations are not familiar with many of the diseases vaccines can prevent,” she said. “These diseases may not seem like real threats today to some people.”

The department launched a TV commercial featuring an old west funeral where attendees lament the passing of “Wyatt,” who died of tetanus from shaving.

Deti said it’s based on a 1922 news clip about a Basin, Wyoming, man who met that fate.

She said the department’s overarching mission is to promote, protect and enhance Wyomingites’ health.

“We see vaccines as one of the greatest success stories in public health,” she said.

Kindergarten Vaccinations Up Because of Chickenpox

The CDC reported that about 93.5% of kindergarteners surveyed in Wyoming received their required school vaccines in the 2021-22 school year, averaged across vaccine types.

That figure is up slightly overall, from the 2019-20 school year average of 92.46%.

It's largely a spike in chickenpox vaccination driving the increase, up from 85.6% chickenpox vaccination in 2019 to 93.6% in 2021. Over those same years most other kindergarten school vaccination rates dropped slightly, going from an average 94.2% uptake in 2019 to 93.5% in 2021.

Teen vaccination rate changes vary depending on the vaccine. For example, Wyoming adolescents dropped off from 75.9% in 2021 to 73.2% in 2022 for meningitis vaccine uptake. But they spiked to 77.1% for the Hepatitis A vaccination in 2022 from 71.1% in 2021, the CDC reported.

Exemptions Up Across All Students

Families of school children in Wyoming can apply for religious or medical exemptions from vaccination, though medical exemptions are “very rare,” Deti said.

Both types of exemptions by 2022 had increased by 44% from 2019’s figure, though there were variances among the types and quantities of vaccines students dodged.

"Not every child with an exemption has opted out of all required and/or recommended vaccines," said Deti.

In 2019, there were 759 vaccine exemptions among Wyoming school students younger than 18, compared with 1,094 exemptions in 2022.

Wyoming’s overall population, meanwhile, increased by about 0.2% from 2019 to 2022, according to numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau and macrotrends.net.

Exemption numbers for 2023 are not yet available, said Deti.

"Much of the focus for measuring vaccine uptake is on school children," she added, "and the vast majority of Wyoming’s school children continue to receive the required vaccines by the time they enter school."

A column gathering in an Old-West setting of people mourning someone who died of shaving because he wasn't vaccinated for tetanus in a new ad by the Wyoming Department of Health.
A column gathering in an Old-West setting of people mourning someone who died of shaving because he wasn't vaccinated for tetanus in a new ad by the Wyoming Department of Health. (Wyoming Department of Health via YouTube)

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter