ROCK SPRINGS — During an informational COVID-19 meeting with public health and local elected officials, Sweetwater County Public Health Director Kim Lionberger informed the group that Sweetwater County will receive a surprise shipment of 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week.
Lionbeger said the shipment is estimated to arrive Tuesday, January 12, or Wednesday, January 13.
Currently, the vaccines (including both the Moderna and Pfizer versions) are being given through appointment only to 1a and 1b categories. Memorial Hospital has asked the public not to call with questions about the vaccination and refer to online sources to see if you are in one of the current priority groups and to then call public health for an appointment.
“We are one of few of the counties to use everything [we’ve received],” Sweetwater County Public Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon said about the vaccine distribution across the state.
Dr. Stachon said this may work in the county’s favor because the more they use, the more they may receive.
So far, 2,000 Sweetwater County residents in the 1a and 1b group have received the first dose of the vaccine immunization. According to Dr. Stachon, 10 days after receiving the second dose the vaccine should offer 95 percent immunity.
Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County (MHSC) general surgeon Dr. Brianne Crofts said it’s very important for residents to get the second dose. She said if they don’t receive the second dose, the vaccine isn’t effective.
Kristy Nielson, former director of nursing at MHSC, said the hospital and public health have been working with other agencies, including the Rock Springs Police Department and Wyoming National Guard to coordinate vaccination clinics.
She said the goal was to make sure the elderly with high risk conditions receive the vaccine first. She contacted medical providers in the county who had patients who qualified. On Friday, the hospital administered 726 vaccinations in 16 hours, and ran out of doses.
Those who receive the vaccines are required wait around for 15 minutes to make sure they do not have any adverse reactions, according to Dr. Stachon.
Out of all vaccines administered, there was only one person reported who had an adverse reaction at Memorial Hospital. According to Nielson, this person also had a history of adverse reactions to other medications taken in the past. Castle Rock Medical Center and public nursing officials reported they have not had any of their patients suffer adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lionberger said they are working to get an online appointment system, which they hope to have up and running by the end of January. They also plan on using the Sweetwater County Events Complex two days a week to administer vaccines.
“We are just asking people to be patient with us,” Lionberger said.
As for herd immunity, Dr Stachon said that is the goal. Herd immunity means the community is protected from the spread of infection and this comes from already having the virus or getting the vaccine. Dr. Stachon estimated that Sweetwater County roughly is at around 7 percent of immunity.
However, since public health knows there has also been unreported cases of COVID-19, Dr. Stachon thinks best case scenario is the county is at around 12 percent. These are all estimates and to obtain herd immunity, the county will need about 75 percent of the population to either have contracted the virus or obtained the vaccinations.
“As you can see, we are nowhere near throwing away masks,” Dr. Stachon said.
The Phased Approach
Lionberger said they will continue working their way through the 1a and 1b groups. The 1b group will take longer to go through than the 1a group because of the amount of people in that category, which includes the school district employees, first responders, and residents who are over the age of 70 (see full list).
There are a lot of individuals in the phase 1b population. The estimates for the 70 and over age group is roughly 3,500 people, while Sweetwater County School District No. 1 has over 1,000 employees and Sweetwater County School District No. 2 has over 500 employees.
In January, Sweetwater County was set to receive 1,300 doses of the vaccine and will now receive the additional 975 doses, which will help move through this phase faster. However, it will still take time to get through 1b.
Phase 1c will have even more individuals in that group.
Lionberger said the 1c group hasn’t been finalized yet, but she anticipates those who are considered “high risk” to be in this phase. While the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) hasn’t clearly defined who will be in the phase 1c group, it will look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.
Castle Rock Medical Center Dr. Connie Fauntleroy said they have started administering 1b vaccinations and completed a total of 120 so far. They have about 240 vaccinations appointments scheduled for this week.
“As long as we can continue to get the vaccine, we can continue to do 60 per day,” Dr. Fauntleroy said.
Lionberger said she doesn’t anticipate the vaccine will be open to the general public until late spring or early summer.
THE LATEST COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS NEWS & INFO FROM THE WYOMING DEPT. OF HEALTH
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Please follow these tips to slow the spread of this virus:
- Follow Public Health Orders
- Practice social distancing of 6 feet or more.
- Wear cloth face coverings in public settings, especially when physical distancing of at least 6 feet isn’t available.
- Stay home when sick and avoid other people unless you need medical attention.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
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- Long-term care and healthcare facilities should follow guidelines for infection control and prevention.
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