Free, safe and effective vaccinations intended to help prevent future COVID-19 infections have started in Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said the first approved vaccine is recommended for most people who are age 16 and older with two doses about three weeks apart needed for the vaccine 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,” she 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.”
Harrist noted 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.
COVID-19 vaccines will not give the illness to people who receive them 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.”
Harrist said COVID-19 remains a serious threat in our state and patience is needed, 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,” Harrist 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.
More information about COVID-19 vaccines from the CDC can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.
More information about COVID-19 in Wyoming can be found at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/.