COVID-19 vaccine availability growing steadily
CHEYENNE, WYO. – Available doses and locations where eligible individuals can get COVID-19 vaccines both continue to grow slowly but steadily across the state while the number of vaccinated Wyoming residents has significantly increased, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
The ongoing effort, which will help prevent COVID-19 deaths and illnesses by providing free, safe and effective vaccinations, has seen more than 75,000 Wyoming residents receive their first doses to date when state and special federal counts are combined.
“While overall available vaccine dose amounts remain low right now compared to high demand, we are seeing modest, continued increases in shipments we receive from the federal government of the authorized vaccines as well as more partners and providers coming on board,” said Angie Van Houten, Community Health Section chief with WDH.
Roughly 100 providers across the state are administering COVID-19 shots so far with more than 75 additional providers approved to participate as vaccine supplies grow. Most are working closely with county public health offices to support local efforts.
From the start, the federal government has been providing separate supplies for Veterans Affairs facilities, tribal populations and for Department of Defense personnel. Now the federal government is adding a program that will include providing more doses for the public through pharmacies in several Wyoming communities.
The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program will begin with small quantities of doses this week in Walmart stores in Casper (East 2nd location), Cheyenne, Cody, Evanston, Gillette, Laramie, Rawlins, Riverton, Rock Springs and Sheridan. Other Walmart-owned stores and other pharmacy chain locations will be added over time as supplies allow the federal pharmacy program to grow.
More information on making vaccine appointments at these stores can be found at walmart.com. Appointments will be limited at this time to those who are 65 and older (plus eligible healthcare providers and first responders) according to Wyoming’s priority guidelines.
This program is a separate federal pharmacy effort than the Walgreens/CVS program that has targeted long-term care facilities.
Van Houten noted there are differences between counties within Wyoming on distribution plans, processes and status.
Pre-registration is open for those 65 and older in most counties. Details and the right online pre-registration option for each county can be found at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/immunization/wyoming-covid-19-vaccine-information/county-covid-19-vaccine-information/.
Those unable to visit the website for county-specific information can call the WDH toll-free vaccine phone line at 800-438-5795 for help.
All Wyoming counties are working on Phase 1b priority groups and will likely not be vaccinating Phase 1c groups until later in the year. The limited number of available doses requires a phased approach to ensure vaccines reach those individuals most at risk and most impacted by the virus as quickly as possible.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said it remains important to continue wearing masks, to keep social distancing and to stay home when ill unless seeking medical help while vaccination efforts continue.
“We are not there yet, but we are on the path back to normal and every day we get closer,” she said.
Important reminders about COVID-19 vaccines include:
· The currently authorized vaccines require two doses for maximum protection.
· The vaccines are free.
· Insurance is not required to receive a vaccine.
· Some people may be asked to show Medicare or insurance cards so professionals giving shots can get reimbursed.
· For most people it is best to receive vaccines in the county where they live.
More information about vaccination efforts in Wyoming can be found at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/immunization/wyoming-covid-19-vaccine-information/.
More details about COVID-19 vaccines, including safety information, from the CDC can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.