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vaccine

Cheney Camp Blasts Hageman For “Reckless” Spread of Misinformation About Vax Bill

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s office blasted fellow Republican and congressional candidate Harriet Hageman on Thursday, claiming she was falsely spreading misinformation about Cheney’s vote on a bill Hageman said would let the government track private citizens’ vaccination statuses.

The bill — The Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act — would provide funds to improve existing immunization information systems in place in most states and improve the sharing of information.

Hageman said the bill represents a “massive intrusion into most basic personal privacy” and criticized Cheney’s support.

But Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler said the bill actually takes steps to safeguard people’s private information.

Adler called Hageman’s accusation “reckless,” noting the bill was supported by 80 Republicans in the House, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) — actually safeguards peoples’ information.

“It’s dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible for the Hageman campaign to be spreading misinformation like this,” Adler told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Hageman, in a release distributed on Thursday, labeled the legislation was “Orwellian”.

“This is straight out of George Orwell, and the fact that Liz Cheney thinks the federal government has the right to know your personal medical information to help Joe Biden enforce his unconstitutional mandates shows you that she has lost her mind,” Hageman said.

“Taking the vaccine is a personal decision, and it is not business of the government,” she said. “In the United States, we value personal privacy, and we don’t allow the federal government to identify and harass people over medical decisions they make for themselves,” she said.

Adler disputed Hageman’s statements and pointed out the bill provides money for an existing network and does not collect personal identifiable information.

“Each state system has their own standards, and all are confidential,” Adler said. “This [provides] an extra layer of protection to ensure they remain confidential and that any new state system is confidential as well.”

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Wyoming Senate Defeats Bill That Would Have Prohibited Vaccine Discrimination

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Senate defeated a bill on Friday that would have prohibited people from being discriminated against based on whether they have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Senate File 1003 would have prohibited using a person’s vaccination status to bar them from receiving public benefits, services or educational opportunities or from accessing areas otherwise open to the public. The bill was defeated by a vote of 13-15 in its third and final reading in the Senate.

The bill was one of three still being considered by legislators in the special session called to chart Wyoming’s response to a federal vaccine mandate proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden. The mandate would apply to federal employees, health care workers and workers at companies employing more than 100.

Rep. Charles Scott, R-Casper, spoke against the bill Friday, expressing concern about its implications for those trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“What I’m afraid we’re going to do with this bill, and with some of the others, is to put something into law that prevents some of the efforts to be sensible in trying to deal with what really is a deadly disease,” he said. “I think we would have been better served maybe to deal with some of these issues in our next regular budget session when we would have what the federal government is doing right in front of us and know what problems they might occur.”

The bill was killed despite arguments by supporters that the state needs to take some steps against overreach by the federal government.

Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, recalled a time he was in Baltics and saw soldiers enforcing the “lack of personal freedoms” by demanding to see identification papers carried by citizens. SF1003, Cooper said, was designed to prevent such developments in Wyoming.

“It is about passports, it’s about personal freedoms and it’s about where this country is headed if we don’t stop,” Cooper said. “We have to stand up at some point and draw that line in the sand.”

Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, said the situation with the vaccine mandate came down to a person choosing between a “forced vaccination” or putting food on the table, noting that many of his constituents have called to tell them they would be out of a job Monday due to their refusal to get a COVID vaccine.

Banner Health, which runs several health care facilities in Wyoming, has ordered its employees to get the vaccine by Nov. 1 in order to keep their jobs.

While Salazar expressed some concern about the bill, he voted in support of it.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, pointed out that there is a big difference between discriminating against someone for their sex, religion or race compared to their vaccination status.

“We’ve morally agreed that we shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of color or race, we’ve come to that agreement there is not a downside,” he said. “There very much is a downside with respect to vaccination status.”

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Wyoming Dept Of Health Says More People Should Get COVID Booster Shots

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming residents’ eligibility for COVID vaccine booster shots has been expanded to include seniors, along with those who may be at a high risk for the illness, the Wyoming Department of Health announced on Friday.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added booster dose recommendations for the COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Moderna and by Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) for certain groups of people to previous recommendations issues for the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer.

The updated CDC recommendations follow authorization by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

“Booster doses do just what the name implies: they ‘boost’ the strong protection the vaccines already offer. This ‘boost’ is especially important for those who are most likely to experience severe illness or exposure to the virus,” Harrist said.

Among people who received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, those eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after their second dose include people who are:

For people who previously received a Johnson and Johnson vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for those who are 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago.

The CDC also approved a “mix and match” approach for booster doses, which means people may receive COVID-19 booster doses produced by a different company than produced their original vaccine. For example, those who previously received the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine may choose a booster dose of either a Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

“We continue to see high numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Wyoming and the state’s low vaccination rates contribute to our vulnerability to the aggressive Delta variant,” Harrist said. “For those people who are not yet vaccinated, getting started with COVID-19 vaccines remains a key priority and the most important step available to help prevent COVID-19 illness.

“COVID-19 vaccines continue to be safe and effective against COVID-19, including the variants, and are especially good at protecting against severe illness,” Harrist continued.

All COVID-19 vaccine doses continue to be offered at no cost to those who receive them.

Harrist noted it is considered safe to get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine dose at the same time.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving either of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The CDC earlier recommended an additional dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems.

Available data has shown that the vaccine’s protection decreases over time following initial doses. With the Delta variant being so contagious, health officials are seeing evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate cases of the disease.

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City Of Casper Implements Vaccine Incentive For Employees, Family Members

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Casper city employees are now eligible for a vaccine incentive that will not only be offered to them, but extended to their family members, spouses and dependents, as well.

The Casper City Council voted 6-2, albeit informally, on Tuesday during a work session to approve the incentive program, which offers $250 to city employees (full-time, part-time and fire and emergency service workers) who are either vaccinated or get fully vaccinated by the end of the year.

However, unlike many vaccine incentive programs implemented across the state, city employees’ family members, spouses and other dependents can also receive $100 if they get fully vaccinated by the end of the year. Employees who have already been fully vaccinated can also receive an additional $50 for getting a booster shot.

The program is completely voluntary, though.

City officials are hoping that through this program, around 65% of the city staff will be vaccinated against the virus by the end of the year, they said during the city council meeting on Tuesday.

Councilman Bruce Knell was one of the two council members who voted against the incentive program.

“I am 100% against using taxpayer dollars to bribe or coerce someone to take a vaccine,” he said.

The money to pay for the incentive is coming from both the city’s CARES Act relief funds and funds from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.

In September, the Laramie County School District No. 1, which encompasses Cheyenne, offered a one-time incentive of $500 to employees who are already fully vaccinated or are willing to undergo bi-monthly COVID tests.

In late July, the City of Cheyenne announced it would offer extra vacation hours for full-time employees or additional payroll hours for part-time and seasonal employees who were fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center employees who are fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 are eligible for the following: full-time employees can receive either 16 hours of paid time off or a $600 bonus, part-time employees can receive either eight hours of PTO or a $300 bonus and PRN employees (those hired on an on-call basis) will receive a $150 bonus.

Editor’s note: The original headline said the city was implementing a mandate, when they are actually implementing a vaccine incentive. That was a mistake and we have corrected that. We apologize for the error.

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Wyoming Vaccine Incentive Programs See Some Success

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of organizations in Wyoming have implemented vaccine incentive programs and at least some have seen at least success, officials told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

As a state, Wyoming has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 37.1% of the population receiving either both of the two-shot vaccinations or the single-shot vaccination made by Jannsen.

Earlier this month, the Laramie County School District No. 1, which encompasses Cheyenne, offered a one-time incentive of $500 to employees who are already fully vaccinated or are willing to undergo bi-monthly COVID tests.

District spokeswoman Mary Quast told Cowboy State Daily that approximately 1,345 employees have provided vaccination information for the incentive, approximately 56% of all permanent employees.

She added that around 120 employees are participating in the twice-monthly COVID testing incentive.

“The first round of incentive payments will be made at the end of October to the employees who are participating in the vaccination incentive and have verified that they are fully vaccinated by October 1,” Quast said. “The second round of payments for fully vaccinated employees will go out at the end of January. Employees participating in the testing incentive will receive their incentive payments in January.”

Funding for the LCSD1 incentive comes from federal COVID relief funds.

In late July, the city of Cheyenne announced it would offer extra vacation hours for full-time employees or additional payroll hours for part-time and seasonal employees who were fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

City spokesman Michael Skinner told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that 266 city employees, 49% of the full-time workforce, were vaccinated and will receive the incentive.

The University of Wyoming has had one of the longest-running incentive programs in the state, having adopted it in the spring, not long after the COVID vaccines became widely available to the public.

Employees who report having been fully vaccinated are eligible for drawings for prizes such as iPads, AirPods and an Apple Watch, as well as a personal day off.

University spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the key for their incentive program is for employees not only to get vaccinated, but to report it.

“Our way to measure the success of the incentive programs is the number of people reporting vaccination, even though we can’t say for certain that the incentives prompted people to report,” he said.

Baldwin said that for employees, the reported vaccination numbers increased significantly after the university launched the incentive program. Currently, 76% of the university’s total benefited employees (2,193 of 2,883) reported having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Adding in the non-benefited employees, 3,466 of 6,416 (54%), have reported receiving at least one dose.

Among students, reported numbers have tripled since the incentive program began, with 4,342 students reported being vaccinated as of Monday, 41% of the total campus population.

“An anonymous survey at the start of the semester indicated 88 percent of employees and 66 percent of students have been vaccinated, so we know there’s still a significant number of people who haven’t taken the step of reporting,” Baldwin said.

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Natural Immunity to COVID? CDC Says Unvaxxed People Twice As Likely To Catch Again

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

With questions about people acquiring “natural immunity” against COVID-19 following an infection swirling on social media, the Wyoming Department of Health reminded that people can catch the virus a second (or more) time.

“People can and do get COVID-19 more than once,” department spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday, pointing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s frequently asked questions.

A recent study done by the CDC showed that unvaccinated people were twice as likely to be re-infected with COVID than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.

“These data further indicate that COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and that vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfections,” the CDC said.

The organization recommended the vaccine for people who have already been infected with COVID because research hasn’t yet shown how long a person is protected against the virus after recovering from infection.

A Utah doctor recently explained to a local ABC station that while some patients have inquired about natural immunity, he said it is not a good strategy.

While some people will acquire an immunity to the virus, the CDC and Wyoming Department of Health continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

“The reason for that is natural immunity varies tremendously from person to person depending on age or health conditions, the health of one’s immune system,” Dr. Brandon Webb said. “It also varies tremendously in how long it lasts depending on those similar conditions. Someone who has natural immunity from a year ago or more likely has waning immunity.”

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Bouchard, Health Care Workers Protest Banner Health’s Vaccine Mandate In Worland

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard joined health care workers in Worland on Monday to protest a vaccine mandate issued by Banner Health, a health care company which has a facility in the community.

Protestors held signs which read “Coercion is not consent” and “Freedom not force” and featured comments by Bouchard, who is also running for U.S. Congress.

“It was great to stand with the patriots in protest of Banner Health’s ‘Jab or else’ policy in [Worland],” Bouchard wrote on his Facebook page. “The healthcare industrial complex needs to get out of WY! I hear other hospitals are recruiting. This could be a big loss for the community if they force it on the employees.”

Banner Health, one of the largest U.S. health system employers, is requiring its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by November 1 or lose their jobs. The organization announced this mandate in July.

Dr. Ronald Burinsky, a physician from Basin, Wyoming, supported the Labor Day protest and legislation to thwart the requirement.

“Pass the law, like in Montana, to make mandatory vaccines and other mandates illegal,” Burinsky wrote on Bouchard’s page.

Earlier this year, Montana passed a law — which was widely condemned by the medical community — that does not allow for private employers to require vaccinations.

“This is against everything we’ve ever known or believed about public health,” Dr. Pamela Cutler, president of the Montana Medical Association, told the Associated Press. “I believe it’s a travesty now and it needs to be fixed so that we can make our offices safe for patients and our coworkers.”

Banner Health operates multiple health care systems in Wyoming, including the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper and clinics in Torrington, Wheatland, Guernsey, Douglas, Worland and more.

No other Wyoming-owned hospitals or health care systems in the state have implemented a vaccine mandate, although some, such as Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, have created incentive programs for employees who do get vaccinated.

Banner is implementing the requirement for several reasons, including the rise of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the need to protect its patients and workforce and to prepare for flu season.

In July, Banner launched an incentive program for employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including a lottery that saw 10 vaccinated employees receive $10,000 each.

Banner has also provided its employees with pay for time away to get vaccinated, mileage reimbursement and points toward its wellness program that offers discounts on health insurance.

Banner Health employs roughly 52,000 people throughout the U.S., operating in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.

Bouchard has been a proponent of alternative methods of combating the virus, such as encouraging the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, neither of which are recommended for use against COVID by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the use of ivermectin has been touted by some popular figures, including podcast superstar Joe Rogan — who the New York Times recently called “too big to cancel.”

Rogan, who signed a $100 million podcasting contract last year with Spotify, recently announced he has recovered from COVID and credits usage of ivermectin, a deworming veterinary drug used on cows and horses but is also prescribed to target parasitic infections in humans.

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Wyoming Health Official: Too Early To Discuss Third COVID Shot

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

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.”

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Some Wyomingites Still Refuse To Get COVID Vaccine, Despite FDA Approval

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Despite the Pfizer vaccine receiving approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week, some Wyomingites still refuse to get a COVID vaccine, according to their posts on social media.

Some Cowboy State Daily readers simply said they would not be getting the vaccine, despite the approval, but did not give a reason why.

However, some were more vocal about their opposition to the vaccine and had plenty of reasons to not get the shot.

“Negative ghost rider. The article I read earlier stated this ‘Mandating becomes easier with full approval.’ That kinda lays out their whole agenda, doesn’t it? We are still a free country and should not be forced to put anything into our body that we choose not to,” reader Jake Smith said.

“When you lean on someone hard enough I’m sure they will approve it! But that doesn’t make it safe! It is said the Vaccinated are the ones spreading the Variant? Something to ponder!” reader Mike Myers (not the actor or serial killer) said.

According to Centers For Disease Control (CDC), Wyoming ranks the lowest in the nation for coronavirus vaccinations.

Gov. Mark Gordon, although vaccinated, said he strongly opposes vaccine or mask mandates, telling reporters recently that no statewide mandates would be coming from his office. Instead, he said he would allow cities, counties and school districts to make their own decisions about mandates.

The Wyoming Department of Health has repeatedly stated the three available vaccines are safe and effective. In July, WDH spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily that the state had seen no vaccine-related deaths.

Additionally, Deti noted that vaccine providers are asked to report any significant health problems after vaccination, whether or not they believe the vaccine was the cause.

However, not all readers were reassured by the department’s assessment.

“I’ll wait for long term results. Get back with me in five or ten years. Not really feeling like finding out what growing extra body parts is like,” Dennis Dickerson.

“Poison, by any other name, is still poison…so no, approval doesn’t change my mind!” reader Tinette Hales said.

Others were looking for ways around vaccine requirements by local government entities.

“Drafting up our religious exemption as we speak for my son attending Junior college. He can’t attend in person unless he has it and he has adamantly opposed it from the beginning,” reader Linda Mangum said.

And some readers questioned the validity of the FDA approval.

“Not in 1000 years! We aren’t too stupid to know that $ were placed under the table to get that approved by FDA. We KNOW how you deceivers operate, so don’t even think that will change our minds. You forget, WE are NOT the dummies here, YOU ARE!” reader Jacqueline Susann (not the novelist) said.

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Wyo Dept of Health Recommends Third Vaccine For Some

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A third dose of the coronavirus vaccine is now being recommended for a select group of Wyoming residents with certain medical conditions by the Wyoming Department of Health.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems should receive an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

“National experts are seeing that people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are more at risk of serious, prolonged illness,” she said. “An additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines can help these people make sure they have enough protection against COVID-19.”

Harrist said those who should consider an additional vaccine dose at this time include people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress immune response

Added doses have not yet been authorized or recommended and are not available at this time for people without compromised immune systems or who may have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The additional dose for people with compromised immune systems should be administered at least 28 days after the original vaccination series is completed. Residents with questions on whether they should consider the additional dose are encouraged to discuss the recommendation with their regular medical professional.

“The authorized vaccines each continue to offer solid protection from infection for Wyoming residents, including against the Delta variant,” Harrist said.

An updated WDH review of more than 7,000 lab-confirmed and probable cases identified among Wyoming residents age 18 and older between May 1 and August 10 showed just over 95% of the infected individuals did not report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

During the same period, of the nearly 350 persons infected by COVID-19 who were hospitalized at the time they were interviewed by public health representatives, just under 95% did not report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Harrist continued to encourage residents to seek out free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which remain readily available across Wyoming.

“As always, we will continue sharing information about future vaccine-related recommendations,” she said.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

This announcement comes just one day after Gov. Mark Gordon told reporters that there would be no vaccine or mask mandates coming from his office.

As of Monday, Wyoming had 2,083 active COVID-19 cases and 112 COVID-related hospitalizations. Gordon said his office is in regular communication with Harrist and the Department of Health about making health recommendations, rather than mandates. 

“I think it’s advisable to wear masks, but there are those who feel very strongly that masks are not the appropriate measure to take,” he said. 

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Natrona County Health Dept Offering $50 Water Bill Vouchers For Mills Residents

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Residents of Mills will get up to $100 off of their water bills if they get vaccinated against the coronavirus, thanks to an incentive program launched by the Natrona County Health Department.

The department has partnered with the City of Mills to offer two $50 vouchers — one for each dose of the vaccine — to those who get vaccinated at the department’s mobile clinic in the next week.

City community development director Sabrina Kemper told Cowboy State Daily that the department decided to offer the vouchers, which are being paid for with federal coronavirus relief funds, to battle Mills’ low vaccination rate. Natrona County’s total vaccination rate is 34.3%.

“We originally thought about offering the vouchers for restaurants in the area, so we could promote the vaccines and local businesses,” Kemper said. “But due to regulations with the vouchers, we couldn’t do that. So we had to get creative.”

There will be a limit of two vouchers per household, Kemper said.

Gov. Mark Gordon’s office approved the incentive program on Monday.

Other vaccine incentive programs have been implemented across the state, such as the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department raffling off free Cheyenne Frontier Days concert tickets or the University of Wyoming and the City of Cheyenne offering a personal day off to employees who get vaccinated. The Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is offering paid time off or cash as an incentive to its employees to get vaccinated.

President Joe Biden’s administration urged state and local governments in late July to use coronavirus relief package funds to incentivize vaccinations by offering $100 to people who got the shots, according to The Associated Press.

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Military Members Must Be Vaccinated By Sept. 15, If Not Sooner

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The U.S. military will require service members to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by mid-September, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Monday.

Currently, 73% of active duty personnel have at least one dose of the vaccine, DOD officials said. 

The deadline has been endorsed by President Joe Biden, who recently asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III to consider how and when the COVID vaccine could be added to the list of required vaccines for all service members. The question came in response to a spike in cases caused by the Delta variant.

“Our men and women in uniform who protect this country from grave threats should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19,” Biden said during a July 29 speech.

Austin consulted with Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the service secretaries and the rest of the Joint Chiefs in making his decision.

“Based on these consultations and on additional discussions with leaders of the White House COVID-19 Task Force, I want you to know that I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensure, whichever comes first,” Austin said in a memo to all service members.

All DOD leaders will be involved in expanding the program.

“I have every confidence that service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill and compassion,” Austin wrote in the memo. “We will have more to say about this as implementation plans are fully developed.”

Austin also said the department will comply with the president’s direction regarding additional restrictions and requirements for unvaccinated federal personnel. These requirements cover military and civilian personnel. 

The DOD will keep a close eye on infection rates “and the impact these rates might have on our readiness,” Austin said. “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if I feel the need to do so.”

More and more employers across the nation are now requiring employees to be vaccinated against the virus or face severe consequences, including termination.

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Lummis Supports Bill Preventing Vaccine Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis announced her support on Friday for a new bill that would prevent federal vaccine mandates.

Earlier this year, Lummis and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Braun (R-Indiana) introduced legislation to prohibit such federal requirements.

“Much like Obamacare, a federal vaccine mandate would insert government into what should be a personal decision between a patient and their doctor,” Lummis said Friday. “Any vaccine mandate will further divide our country, instead of uniting us. That’s why I’m supporting the No Vaccine Passports Act, which would keep the federal government from forcing anyone to get a vaccine approved under Emergency Use Authorization, like the COVID vaccines.”

President Joe Biden has not implemented a nationwide vaccine mandate, although earlier this week, he announced that federal employees would be required to either obtain the vaccine or be tested regularly for coronavirus and would be required to use masks and practice social distancing.

In May, Gov. Mark Gordon officially banned state agencies, boards and commissions from requiring “vaccine passports” to access state spaces and services. Other states have implemented similar bans against vaccine passports.

“Vaccine passport programs have the potential to politicize a decision that should not be politicized,” Gordon said. “They would divide our citizens at a time when unity in fighting the virus is essential, and harm those who are medically unable to receive the vaccine. While I strongly encourage Wyomingites over the age of 16 to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it is a personal choice based upon personal circumstances.”

The new directive also encouraged Wyoming’s counties, cities and towns, as well as private business, to follow the state’s example in providing access to public spaces and services to all.

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Wyoming Dept Of Health: No Vaccine-Related Deaths In Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has seen no deaths related to the coronavirus vaccine, the Wyoming Department of Health, the department said this week.

Department spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that there is misleading information floating around online about the vaccines and she repeated assurances they are safe and effective.

“It’s important to know deaths that occur after vaccination are investigated by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” Deti said. “The CDC has not determined the vaccine to have caused any deaths in Wyoming. Unfortunately, at the same time we continue to see COVID-19 related deaths in the state, which are verified through death certificate review.”

Wyoming has seen nearly 800 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began last year.

The state also has a relatively low vaccination rate, around 35%. Deti said sometimes people will pull information from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a national safety monitoring system, and discuss those numbers in misleading ways.

“Healthcare providers, vaccine manufacturers and any member of the public can submit reports to VAERS. The submission of a report does not make it true and is not proof that the vaccine caused an incident,” she said. “VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental or unverifiable.”

Additionally, Deti noted that vaccine providers are asked to report any significant health problems after vaccination, whether or not they believe the vaccine was the cause.

“The numbers of reports alone do not show or indicate conclusions about the severity, frequency or rates of potential problems. In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they could be affected by biases,” she said.

She noted that between May 1 and Wednesday, about 95% of the newly-identified COVID cases in Wyoming were among people who didn’t report being fully vaccinated against the virus. Around 94% of patients hospitalized in Wyoming during that same time did not report being fully vaccinated.

While some people have experienced side effects such as a sore arm or feeling feverish and sore, reports of the vaccine causing serious adverse side effects are rare, according to the CDC.

“I know people are tired of the pandemic. I am too,” Deti said. “I’d love to be able to tell people what they want to hear, but it wouldn’t be honest. The pandemic is not over and the combination of the Delta variant dominance and our low vaccination rate could lead to problems none of us want to see.”

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93% Of Wyoming’s COVID Hospitalizations Are People Who Aren’t Fully Vaccinated

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Around 93% of Wyoming’s latest coronavirus-related hospitalizations have occurred among people who aren’t fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Wyoming Department of Health said Friday.

As of Thursday, 70 people were hospitalized across the state with the coronavirus, according to the Wyoming COVID hospitalization tracker. The majority of those patients, 33, were in the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

“Between May 1 and July 19, roughly 93% of those patients in Wyoming who were hospitalized at the time they were interviewed by public health representatives did not report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” WDH spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

The number marks the first time since January that more than 60 people have been hospitalized for coronavirus treatment in Wyoming.

Deti did note that sometimes people are hospitalized after they are interviewed, so the department’s numbers may not reflect the hospitalizations of those individuals. The department also chose May 1 as the look-back date because by then, Wyoming residents would have had “ample time” to be vaccinated after the doses became available to the general population with a good number of supplies, Deti said.

Nearly half of the state’s available intensive care unit beds were occupied, with only 73 of 131 beds in Wyoming available. However, just because someone is in the ICU does not mean they have the virus.

As of Thursday, the state had almost 800 active coronavirus cases, numbers that haven’t been seen in nearly six months. In 2020, Wyoming didn’t hit 700 active cases until September, the beginning of a spike that saw more 11,000 active cases by late November.

Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that health officials believe the more contagious Delta variant and low vaccination rates are contributing to the higher active cases in the state.

Around 32% of Wyoming’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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Report: Wyoming’s Nursing Home Staff Rank Below National Average For COVID Vaccinations

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is ranked below the national average when it comes to nursing home staff who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, a new AARP report said.

Around 48.2% of skilled nursing home staff in Wyoming are fully vaccinated against the virus, lower than the national average of 56%.

According to the AARP report, this places Wyoming 37th in the nation for nursing home staff vaccination rates.

Louisiana has the nation’s lowest vaccination rates among skilled nursing home staff at 41%, while Hawaii has the nation’s top rate at 83.9%.

Although vaccination rates for nursing home staff in Wyoming is low, the COVID-19 vaccination rate for nursing home residents is above the national average.

Almost 81% of nursing home residents in Wyoming are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which is just above the national average of 78%.

Vermont has the nation’s top vaccination rate at 94.6%, followed by Maine (90.5%), New Hampshire (90.4%), North Dakota (90.2) and South Dakota (89.9%) rounding out the top five.

Arizona (63.3%), Nevada (65.8%), and Georgia (68.1%) have the nation’s lowest vaccination rates for nursing home residents. 

The nursing home death rate (COVID deaths per 100 residents) in Wyoming also dropped for the four weeks ending June 20 from the four weeks ending April 18, from 0.9% to 0.6%. Nursing home resident coronavirus cases per 100 residents also fell to 0.2 % over the same period of time. 

However, Wyoming did see an uptick in the percent of nursing homes who self-reported an urgent need for personal protective equipment, 5% compared to 3.6% in May.

Staffing shortages in Wyoming nursing homes remained nearly static from May through June, with 23.5% of all facilities reporting a shortage in nurses or aides. 

“More than 184,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19,” sNancy A. LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer, said. “This national tragedy cannot be repeated. With cases once again rising across the country and considering the highly contagious Delta variant, every effort must be made to protect vulnerable nursing home residents. AARP encourages residents and staff in long-term care facilities to get a free COVID vaccine to protect yourself, your family and your community.”

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Wyoming One Of The Most Skeptical States In Country For COVID, Vaccine

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A new report from a national think tank showed Wyoming has one of the highest proportions of COVID “skeptics” in the country.

Health care think tank Surgo Foundation conducted a Facebook survey in March to determine how enthusiastic people were about getting one of the available COVID vaccines and if they were hesitant to get one, why.

The foundation report broke the survey respondents into five categories: enthusiasts, watchful, cost-anxious, system distrusters and COVID skeptics. It also accounted for how many people who were already vaccinated.

Wyoming ranked high in three of the five categories: watchful, cost-anxious and COVID skeptics, with around 25% of the state being considered skeptical of the virus and the vaccine.

In terms of skepticism, Wyoming ranked third in the nation, behind Arkansas (which came in at 30%) and South Dakota (29%), respectively.

The report said many among the Wyoming residents identified as skeptics, many believed in at least one of three conspiracy theories about the virus or vaccines: that the vaccine contains a microchip, that the government is exploiting the virus to control people or that the virus was created by humans to manipulate world events.

People who identified as Republicans or independent politically were more likely to believe in a conspiracy theory about the virus or vaccine.

The report said 13.4% of Wyomingites responding to the survey were considered “watchful,” or more likely to take the vaccine if people they knew reported a positive vaccine experience. Another 14.4% were classified as “cost-anxious,” although the vaccine is, and always has been, free to obtain.

By the time the survey was conducted in late March, vaccines were widely available, although not throughout the state.

Vermont, North Carolina and Georgia came in as the most enthusiastic states when it came to getting a COVID vaccine.

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Gordon Officially Bans Vaccine Passports In Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon has officially banned state agencies, boards and commissions from requiring “vaccine passports” to access state spaces and services.

The new directive, issued Friday, instructs state agencies, boards and commissions to provide full access to spaces and services regardless of a person’s coronavirus vaccination status.

“Vaccine passport programs have the potential to politicize a decision that should not be politicized,” Gordon said. “They would divide our citizens at a time when unity in fighting the virus is essential, and harm those who are medically unable to receive the vaccine. While I strongly encourage Wyomingites over the age of 16 to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it is a personal choice based upon personal circumstances.”

The new directive also encouaged Wyoming’s counties, cities and towns, as well as private business, to follow the state’s example in providing access to public spaces and services to all.

This follows in the steps of other Republican governors across the country, such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have issued similar orders over the last month.

Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets of Nebraska said the idea of any type of medical passport “violates two central tenets of the American system: freedom of movement and health care privacy.”

Gordon had previously said he had no intention of implementing a vaccine passport, but Friday’s order made it official.

More than 180,000 Wyoming residents have been vaccinated against the virus, about 26% of the state’s population, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The governor again encouraged residents to get one of the three available vaccines.

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Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Distribution Again Allowed In Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Health is again allowing distribution of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, a spokeswoman confirmed Monday.

The move comes almost two weeks after the department and the federal government recommended a pause in administration of the single-dose vaccine due to reports of women developing blood clots after receiving it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowed the vaccine to be used again as of Friday and the Wyoming Department of Health told health care providers on Saturday that they could again distribute the vaccine, WDH spokeswoman Kim Deti confirmed to Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

“Providers have been advised they can resume offering that vaccine. We sent a notice to providers over the weekend,” she said.

She also provided a copy of the notice, which also gave directions to medical providers in the event of patients developing blood clots.

At the time of the pause, Wyoming had administered 9,950 doses of the vaccine and had received a total of 24,400 doses.

There were six reported cases of women between the ages of 18 to 48 across the U.S. developing blood clots within six to 13 days after receiving that particular vaccine.

Individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination are advised to contact their health care provider.

Stitches Acute Care Center, which has urgent care clinic in both Wyoming and Colorado, began offering the vaccine again on Sunday, owner Amy Surdam posted in a message to Twitter.

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Teton Is Most Vaccinated County In Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Nearly 40% of Teton County is completely vaccinated against the coronavirus, the highest vaccination rate of Wyoming’s counties.

According to the Wyoming Department of Health, 39.7% of the county’s residents have received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or have been given the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The state halted the distribution of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine on April 13, after it was linked to a rare form of blood clotting.

This data showed that not only was Teton County’s overall vaccination rate the highest in the state, but so was its percentage of vaccinated adults age 18 and older (48.8%), and those over the age of 65 (66.8%).

Despite the high vaccination rate, Teton County has chosen to continue its mask mandate into next month.

The county’s total rate was significantly higher than all other counties in the state, none of which had seen more than 30% of their residents vaccinated.

The county with the second-highest rate vaccination rate was Hot Springs, with 27.4% — 34.3% of adults 18 and older receiving the vaccine and 55.3% of adults 65 and older being completely vaccinated.

The county with the lowest overall vaccination rate was Campbell, with only 11.5% of residents being completely vaccinated against the virus. Only 15.6% of adults 18 and older in the county were completely vaccinated (the lowest among this demographic in the entire state), while 37% of adults 65 and older were vaccinated.

Sheridan County had the lowest percentage of adults 65 and older vaccinated against the virus, 36.1%.

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Wyoming Department of Health Pauses Administering Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Health is recommending all state health care providers temporarily stop giving the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to patients due to reports of the vaccine being linked to a rare form of blood clotting.

This recommendation Tuesday came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration suggested healthcare providers stop giving the vaccine.

There have been six reported cases of women between the ages of 18 to 48 across the U.S. developing blood clots within six to 13 days after receiving that particular vaccine.

“The action recommended by the CDC and FDA is a clear illustration the high levels of caution associated with the overall vaccination effort,” WDH spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday morning. “This is a temporary pause to look a little closer at some extremely rare situations.”

The department sent out a message to all health care providers across the state on Tuesday morning.

“Effective immediately, WDH asks Wyoming providers to temporarily cease administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine pending additional recommendations from the FDA, CDC, and ACIP,” the letter from the department said. “Providers are asked to continue to store the vaccine pending further direction.”

As of Monday, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered in the United States. Wyoming had administered 9,950 doses of the vaccine as of Tuesday morning, and had received a total of 24,400 doses.

The blood clot events appear to be rare, but serious. The CDC will meet with an advisory committee on Wednesday to review these cases and asses their potential significance.

Individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination are advised to contact their health care provider.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third of the available coronavirus vaccines that have come on the market, but it was only released within the last six weeks.

A total of 117,086 Wyomingites have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, meaning they are completely vaccinated against the virus.

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More Than 110K Wyomingites Are Completely Vaccinated Against COVID

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A little more than 110,000 Wyoming residents are completely vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the most recent numbers provided by the Wyoming Department of Health.

A total of 110,781 complete doses of the three major vaccines available to prevent the illness had been give in Wyoming as of Sunday, but these numbers could be up to 72 hours behind, the Health Department said.

This department said 104,297 people have received the second dose of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations, and 6,484 have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

According to the vaccine distribution data, this means 71% of the second dose supply available in Wyoming has been administered, while only 55% of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been given.

“Our goal is to encourage as many Wyoming residents as possible to choose to get vaccinated,” Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “Without vaccination, the risk of illness could remain for people and that’s what we’re focused on avoiding. We want everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, but it is especially important for those at higher risk of severe illness related to COVID-19.”

A total of 148,520 first doses have been given across the state, around 80% of the total supply.

The vaccines are free and effective against the virus, which is something the WDH is continuing to remind anyone who still might be hesitant to get one.

“We want people to know a COVID-19 vaccine can help them stay healthy, give them peace of mind, and help get them back to things they miss such as spending time with family and friends,” Deti said. “The data shows these vaccines are safe and effective, and we are confident in recommending them.”

Last week, the state moved into open availability for the vaccine, meaning that anyone in the state who was 16 or older could be vaccinated.

The vaccines are free and insurance is not required to receive one.

“Together with our county public health partners, healthcare providers in our communities and growing numbers of pharmacies across the state, we have worked to make vaccines easy to find and receive.” Deti said. “Earlier it was more difficult due to limited supplies and that may have been a factor in people’s expectations and plans.”

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All Wyomingites 16 and Over Can Get COVID Vaccine

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Every Wyoming resident that is over the age of 16 is eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine, if they would like one.

Gov. Mark Gordon announced the new rollout on Wednesday. All 23 counties have now entered Phase 2 of the vaccine distribution plan and are scheduling appointments for the general population.

“We have done well and can now offer COVID-19 vaccines to every Wyoming resident over the age of 16,” Gordon said. “I want to express my appreciation for the efforts of public health workers, health care providers and pharmacies throughout the state. I would encourage every resident to take advantage of the vaccines, as Jennie and I have, and help Wyoming move closer to ending this pandemic.”

Residents aged 16 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, while adults 18 and older are eligible for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines.

The vaccines are free and insurance is not required to receive a vaccine.

More than 162,000 individuals in Wyoming have so far received at least their first dose of vaccine when state and special federal counts are combined.

As of last week, Wyoming was 18th in the nation for vaccination rates, ahead of neighboring states including Utah (50th in the nation, with less than 10% of its residents having received the vaccine), but behind Montana, Nebraska and Colorado (ninth, 14th and 16th, respectively).

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Wyoming Close to Open Availability for COVID Vaccines

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is near to having enough coronavirus vaccines to vaccinate any resident 16 and older, according to Wyoming Department of Health officials.

At least 18 of Wyoming’s 23 counties are vaccinating any member of the general public age 18 or older, Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Health, told Cowboy State Daily.

The other five counties are vaccinating anyone who falls into the first three stages of the state’s phased vaccination program, including people who are 50 and older, those who are homeless and frontline workers exposed regularly to people who may carry the illness.

“Most counties are open to all so it should be very soon [that the state will open up to all residents],” Deti said.

As of Sunday, Wyoming had received 167,630 first vaccine doses (84,630 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 83,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine) and 138,704 first doses have been administered.

The state has received 118,805 second vaccine doses (58,305 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 60,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine) and 92,108 second doses of the vaccines have been administered.

Finally, Wyoming has received 8,400 of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and 4,657 doses have been administered, according to Health Department figures.

In total, 96,765 Wyoming residents are completely vaccinated against the virus, around 15% of the state, the department said.

As of last week, Wyoming was 18th in the nation for vaccination rates, ahead of neighboring states including Utah (50th in the nation, with less than 10% of its residents having received the vaccine), but behind Montana, Nebraska and Colorado (ninth, 14th and 16th, respectively).

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Wyoming 18th In United States For Vaccinations

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Fourteen-point-six-eight.

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/

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Wyoming to Receive Nearly 5K Doses of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine This Week

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will receive nearly 5,000 doses of the new single-shot coronavirus vaccine sometime this week, continuing the state and national push to combat the virus.

Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily that the state would receive a total of 4,800 doses of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine sometime this week, but didn’t have a county-by-county breakdown on where the vaccine would be sent.

“It’s an excellent vaccine and will protect people after just one dose, which means they will be protected in about two weeks after they get vaccinated,” Deti said. “We’re excited we now have three COVID-19 vaccines that are free, safe and effective.”

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two doses to be fully effective, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.

The U.S. government paid the company $2 billion for development and clinical trials and preorders at a price of $10 per dose just days after the vaccine received emergency authorization for use from federal regulators, according to the Washington Post.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will boost the number of doses the state will receive this month, which was estimated last week to be around 47,000.

That amounts to approximately 5,000 doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines every week.

The totals reported are only for the first doses of the two vaccines, WDH said. It also noted the numbers could change and are only an estimate.

As of last week’s report, Fremont County is receiving only the Pfizer vaccine every week, with 4,680 expected to arrive by the end of the month. Laramie County is receiving more of the Pfizer vaccine, with only 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine scheduled to be delivered for the entirety of March.

Laramie and Natrona counties are expected to receive the largest number of doses of the vaccine next month, with each county getting a total of 5,280 of the two vaccines.

Laramie County has received the most doses of the vaccine since they began shipping out in December, with 12,570 doses. Natrona County followed with 11,970.

“About 19% of our total population has received at least one dose so far,” Deti said. “If you don’t include children (because they are not yet approved to receive the vaccines), about 25% of Wyoming’s eligible population has received at least one dose so far.”

As of Tuesday, 97,638 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines had been administered across Wyoming, while 59,274 second doses had been given.

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UW Survey Finds Covid-19 Vaccine Acceptance In Wyoming Remains Steady

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The number of Wyoming residents who say they are likely to or have received the COVID-19 vaccine has remained flat since early November, according to a new survey by the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC).

Just under two-thirds (62%) of Wyomingites say they are very or somewhat likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine when available to them or that they already have received at least one dose.

Alternatively, 7% say they are somewhat unlikely, while nearly a third of Wyoming residents (31%) say they are very unlikely. In follow-up questions of those who say they are unlikely to receive the vaccine, over two-thirds (69%) say that concerns about side-effects are a major reason.

Additionally, 54% say they do not think they need it, and 56% say a major reason they are unlikely to get the vaccine is they want to know more about how well it will work.

“A majority of those who have not yet received the vaccine say they do not have enough information about the potential side-effects,” Brian Harnisch, senior research scientist in charge of the project at WYSAC said.

“Additionally, it appears that residents still have questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, as well as when and where people like them will be able to get the vaccine.”

Over half (55%) of residents who have not received the vaccine say they do not have enough information about when they will be able to get it, while 44% say they do not have enough information about where they will be able to get the vaccine.

Sixty-three percent of those who have not received the vaccine say they do not have enough information about the side-effects, and 56% say they do not have enough information about the effectiveness.

The survey was conducted for 24 hours beginning on Monday, Feb. 1, and is the 13th of multiple surveys WYSAC is conducting to measure public opinion on a number of topics related to COVID-19.

A total of 526 Wyoming residents participated in the survey representing all Wyoming counties, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3% points.

Other findings from the latest survey: — Self-reported mask use in indoor public places has declined slightly since early January, with 72% of residents saying they always or often wear a mask in this situation. —

Asked to reflect on 2020 overall, 47% of Wyoming residents say they approve of how former President Donald Trump handled COVID-19 in the U.S., while 51% say they disapprove. —

Asked how President Joe Biden is handling COVID-19 in the US, 42% of Wyoming residents say they approve, while 43% say they disapprove. Additionally, 15% say they are not sure how he is handling the pandemic.

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Wyoming Expands Phase 1B Vaccine Eligibility

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Health has expanded eligibility for the state’s coronavirus vaccine priority groups to allow those age 65 and over to receive the vaccine.

The change, made to bring the state more in line with recently described national guidelines, also allows vaccinations for people with certain high-risk medical conditions.

The “Phase 1b” vaccination rules had previously allowed for those 70 and over to obtain the vaccine.

WDH is also offering an online pre-registration form to make it easy for priority populations to pre-register for vaccination, as well as a toll-free hotline that will provide easy access to vaccination information.

Those unable to visit the website for details about the priority groups or for county-specific information can call the WDH toll-free vaccine phone line at 800-438-5795. With high interest in the vaccine, call volumes may be high enough to cause delays.

While the phased effort to offer free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations is being expanded, overall vaccine supplies from the federal government remain low.

Essential frontline workers covered by Phase 1b will be contacted through their employers by local county health offices. Pre-registration for additional Phase 1 groups will be open in the coming months.

The limited number of available doses requires continued use of a phased approach to ensure vaccines reach those individuals most at risk and most impacted by the virus.

The overall Phase 1 plan describes three general groupings for early vaccine eligibility:

  • Phase 1a includes healthcare providers, first responders, long-term care facility staff and others at high risk for exposure to COVID-19.
  • Phase 1b now focuses on some frontline essential workers, individuals 65 and over and individuals with certain medical conditions.
  • Phase 1c includes homeless individuals, people living in congregate settings and other essential workers as defined by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

While the Phase 1c priority group descriptions are now available, counties will likely not be vaccinating Phase 1c groups until later in the year due to limited vaccine supply.

“Counties are vaccinating people in both Phase 1a and some Phase 1b groups right now, and working through the priority groups based on what is most appropriate for their counties,” said Stephanie Pyle, Public Health Division senior administrator with WDH. “We are working with counties to help ensure vaccine is administered as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Wyoming’s prioritization schedule is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the WDH medical ethics committee.

“Unfortunately we don’t have enough doses to vaccinate everyone in these groups right away,” Pyle said. “We are asking for patience from our residents as we all wait for our turn to get the vaccine.”

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Wyoming Department of Health: Stay In Your County to Get Vaccine

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Health is urging state residents not to cross county lines in their search for the coronavirus vaccine.

“Vaccine is being distributed largely based on population estimates. Going across county lines to receive vaccines can harm the other county’s ability to meet the needs of their own residents,” said Angie Van Houten, Community Health Section chief with WDH. “There are a few situations such as for certain workers employed in a different county than where they live that are understandable, but most people really should look to their own county’s resources.”

The vaccines currently being used in Wyoming require two doses for maximum protection. Vaccine supplies remain low compared to current demand.

“We want you to get both doses and part of our state and local efforts includes planning for two doses,” State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said. “People will need to get their second doses in the same location where they get their first, which is another reason to stay closer to home.”

As of Friday, Wyoming had received 57,150 first doses of the vaccine (both Moderna and Pfizer) and administered 38,711 first doses.

The state received 28,700 second doses of the vaccine and administered 8,064.

The vaccine is being administered at no cost to patients.

Not every state is approaching their vaccination efforts the same way and there are differences between counties within Wyoming on distribution and progress. 

“This is already a complicated effort for many reasons such as limited doses, specialized vaccine storage requirements and the need to target priority groups. When people go to other counties to get shots, it makes things tougher for everyone,” Van Houten said.

Natrona County recently ran out of the vaccine due to overwhelming demand from the public.

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Laramie County Health Department to Offer COVID Vaccines For Elderly In February

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Laramie County health official have joined their colleagues in Natrona County in announcing the county will begin vaccinating elderly people against the coronavirus this week.

In addition, beginning the week of Feb. 1, the Cheyenne-Laramie County Department will likely start offering coronavirus vaccine appointments, according to a social media post from the agency.

The state has established a hierarchy for people at risk from the illness to be vaccinated, with different risk groups to be vaccinated in phases. The decision on when to move from one phase to the next is being left with county officials.

The Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department has started offering vaccinations to people in the Phase 1B group, which includes not only the elderly, but also emergency medical workers (such as fire and police officers), funeral home employees and child care service providers.

The vaccinations are free to obtain, but people who are vaccinated must receive two rounds of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

“We are working with the state and community partners to establish alternate providers in the county, and we will share those when they have been approved,” the post said.

Another group of at-risk individuals will be vaccinated when Phase 1C is implemented. After that, the vaccinations will move to “Phase 2,” when other members of the public will be able to make arrangements to obtain the vaccine. Phase 1 overall provides specific vaccination targets in situations where vaccines are in limited supply and are being allocated for specific populations.

State health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist previously said priority groups and vaccine ordering are handled at the state level, while vaccinations are coordinated at the county level by local health departments and their community partners.

“Details on exactly where a county is with their progress through the priority group listings and specific vaccine availability and distribution information will largely be more available locally than from the state,” she said.

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Natrona County Offering COVID Vaccines to Elderly Beginning This Week

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Casper and Natrona County residents who are at least 70 years old can receive the coronavirus vaccine as early as Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.

The health department is moving into Phase 1B of the vaccination program, which includes vaccinating elderly people. Appointments for vaccines will be available starting Wednesday.

“With the beginning of this new phase, we’re able to start protecting our most vulnerable populations,” health department spokeswoman Hailey Bloom said. “Phase 1A went well, and we’re now working with more community partners to distribute vaccines to people outside of healthcare workers and emergency responders.”

Bloom also said that due to limited vaccine quantities, the health department is expecting to run out, but will distribute doses to partner medical clinics as soon as more shipments arrive.

Vaccination appointments will be made on a first-come, first-served basis with waiting lists at every location.

Appointments have to be made in order to receive a vaccine and government-issued identification will be required. The vaccinations are free.

“Casper is on its way back to normal. The more people we’re able to vaccinate, the sooner we’ll get there,” Bloom said.

The locations offering coronavirus vaccinations to elderly patients in Natrona County are:

  • Mesa Primary Care Clinic, 3632 American Way, Casper. Vaccinations are open to anyone with any provider. Schedule your appointment by calling 307-233-7280.
  • University of Wyoming Family Practice, 1522 E. A St., Casper. Vaccinations are open to current patients but the clinic is currently welcoming new patients. Schedule your appointment by calling 307-234-6161.
  • Community Health Centers of Central Wyoming, 5000 Blackmore Road, Casper. Vaccinations are open to current CHCCW patients and the public. Schedule your appointment by calling 307-233-6085.
  • Platte River Family Practice 1900 E. First Street, Casper. Vaccinations are open to current Platte River Family Patients and the public. Schedule your appointment by calling 307-577-7737.

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Covid-19 Vaccinations Begin in Wyoming; Public Health Nurse Gets First Vaccine

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 The Wyoming Department of Health announced on Tuesday that vaccinations for the Covid-19 virus have begun.

A photo of the first vaccination was included in a press release. The department said the vaccination was given at the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department on Tuesday morning to a local public health nurse.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the department, said the vaccine is recommended for most people who are age 16 and older with two doses administered about three weeks apart needed for it to be effective.

“Putting an end to this pandemic will take all our tools. Now we can add vaccines to wearing masks, social distancing and staying home when we are ill,” Harrist said. 

“For now and for some months to come, we need all of these strategies as we work to eliminate this virus and to help things get back to normal as soon as possible,” she said.

Harrist said COVID-19 vaccines, like other vaccines, are held to high standards to make sure they are safe. 

“Things may have moved quickly with these vaccines due to unprecedented focus and investment, but safety has remained important. No steps were skipped,” she said.

She said COVID-19 vaccines will not give the illness to people or cause individuals to test positive for the virus. 

“The goal of these vaccines is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19,” Harrist said. 

“Sometimes this may lead to symptoms or side effects such as a sore arm or mild, short-term fever. Symptoms like this are normal and tell us our body is building immunity,” she said.

Harrist said COVID-19 remains a serious threat in Wyoming but the vaccines are a huge step forward toward ending the pandemic and its consequences.

“More than 300 Wyoming families are mourning the loss of someone they loved due to the virus. The burden on our hospitals remains high. Businesses and communities are facing big challenges,” she said. “That’s why I recommend and encourage Wyoming residents to get vaccinated when it is their turn to do so.”

Harrist said the number of doses available early will be relatively small.

“Working with our county and healthcare provider partners, we established priorities to make clear who should receive the first-available vaccine doses,” she said. “Our initial focus across the state involves healthcare workers involved in direct patient care and residents of long-term care facilities.”

Prioritized descriptions of the “Phase 1A Distribution” plan groups can be found https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/immunization/wyoming-covid-19-vaccine-information/.

Another company’s vaccine candidate is expected to be authorized late this week. If that happens, each Wyoming county will receive initial shipments of vaccine doses by next week. WDH expects shipments to be available and then continue from both the first and second companies.

WDH is ordering COVID-19 vaccines through a federal process with shipments going directly to key hospital partners and local health departments. Separate amounts are also expected to be provided directly from the federal government to tribal health clinics, military bases and to U.S. Veterans Affairs facilities.

A special, targeted effort involving pharmacy chains to help vaccinate residents of Wyoming’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities is also planned in the coming weeks.

Vaccination efforts will continue over the coming months with a phased approach based on production and availability. People receiving the vaccines will not be asked to pay any fees.

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Most Surveyed Wyomingites Would Take COVID Vaccine

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A majority of Wyoming residents surveyed for a University of Wyoming poll would be likely to take the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.

The survey conducted by the UW’s Survey and Analysis Center showed that 40.7% of the 519 people polled would be very likely to take the vaccine, while 21.4% would be somewhat likely to get it.

The survey, conducted Dec. 7, also showed that 27.2% of those questioned would be very unlikely to get the vaccine and another 10.7% would be somewhat unlikely to take it.

The percentage of people who would be very likely to get the vaccine increased by 2.7% from November, but is a decline of almost 13 percentage points from late March, the first time the question was posed in the center’s regular survey.

Among those who said they were somewhat or very unlikely to get the vaccine, 69.8% said they were concerned about potential side effects from the vaccine and 59.3% said they want to know more about how well the vaccine will work.

Another major reason for not taking the vaccine for 51.7% of those questioned was they do not believe they need it.

The survey is the 11th conducted by the center focusing on public opinions about the coronavirus pandemic. The same survey showed a decline in support for the actions of Gov. Mark Gordon to slow the spread of the illness.

In the December survey, 54.1% said they strongly or somewhat approved of Gordon’s actions, a decline of 5.8 percentage points from November. At the same time, the share of those saying the somewhat or strongly disapprove of Gordon’s actions increased by 5.5 percentage points to total 43.1%.

The people surveyed were members of the center’s WyoSpeaks panel, a group of people who have indicated they would be willing to be surveyed about issues facing the state. The margin of error for the survey was 4.3 percentage points.

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Covid Vaccine Approved: Wyoming Dept of Health Prepared to Begin Vaccination Campaign

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With authorization by national medical experts of the first vaccine intended to help prevent COVID-19 infections in the United States, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is kicking off its efforts to distribute the vaccines across the state.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, described the vaccine’s authorization by federal Food and Drug Administration as “exciting” and noted other vaccines are also on track for authorization.

“Knowing we have safe and effective vaccines arriving is like seeing light at the end of a tunnel,” she said. “We have an end in sight at this point, which was not true for many months during this pandemic. We have hope and a reminder that this situation is for now and not forever.”

“The number of vaccine doses available at first will be quite limited so setting priorities to ensure the early doses reach those who need it most is part of the plan we’ve developed together with our county and healthcare provider partners,” Harrist said.

The first vaccine shipments have been ordered and are expected to arrive in Wyoming the week of December 14 with an initial 4,875 doses divided into five packages of 975 doses each. These packages will be delivered to public health departments in Casper and Cheyenne as well as hospitals in Cody, Jackson and Gillette. As shipments continue and vaccines from other companies are authorized, the amount of available doses dedicated to use within Wyoming will continue to grow.

Healthcare workers involved in direct patient care and vulnerable residents of Wyoming’s long-term care facilities are among the first groups targeted to receive the new vaccine. Two doses received three to four weeks apart will provide the highest level of protection.

The next step, which is necessary before COVID-19 vaccines can be given to any Wyoming residents, is approval from the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is expected to review the vaccine very soon. The committee advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on immunizations.

WDH is ordering COVID-19 vaccines through a federal process with shipments going directly to key hospital partners and local health departments that can efficiently store and share vaccine doses among other counties. Separate amounts are also expected to be provided directly from the federal government to tribal health clinics, military bases and to U.S. Veterans Affairs facilities.

A special, targeted effort involving pharmacy chains to help vaccinate residents of Wyoming’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities is planned in the coming weeks.

“Our planning is intended to ensure we make the most of any and all vaccine doses we receive as this is an important resource for our state and communities,” said Stephanie Pyle, Public Health Division senior administrator with WDH.

Harrist said it remains important to continue following the department’s key prevention strategies of staying home when ill except to seek medical care, maintaining physical distancing with people from other households as much as possible and wearing cloth face masks as recommended. “Supplies will continue to arrive over the coming months, but most Wyoming residents will be asked to be patient and stay on track a little longer,” she said.

Getting vaccinated will be free; people receiving the vaccines will not be asked to pay any fees. Healthcare professionals offering the vaccine will later be able to bill insurers for administration costs and to seek federally funded reimbursement for vaccination of uninsured individuals.

“Enrolling providers, distributing vaccines and tracking vaccine doses are not new activities for us,” Pyle said. “Together with our partners, we do this every day. We have a great network of partners and robust data systems. In short, we’re ready to go.”

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