Suddenly in Albany County and Laramie, it’s a tossup — getting the vaccine or getting information about the vaccine.
The years of mistrust toward health care organizations has led some to believe fallacies about the distribution of the vaccine, and on the surface it would appear Wyoming is administering the vaccine too slowly on purpose.
“[I] tried to find out the status of the COVID vaccine program yesterday,” said Albany County resident Roy Bane, who stated in an email Tuesday that information regarding vaccine distribution should be easily accessible through internet sources and telecommunication, but is not.
In the email, Bane accused health care personnel of allegedly “vaccine hoarding” and compared Wyoming to Colorado, which has already moved on to Phase 1b distribution. His frustration, as well as other members of the community, center on the apparent lack of public transparency.
Kathy Curtis is over the age of 70 and doesn’t live in a senior living facility. It wasn’t until after several phone calls among her physician, Laramie Public Health and Safeway that she was able to put her name on an immunization waiting list.
Curtis recalled her conversations with the pharmacy. The woman she spoke with didn’t have any definitive information about the coronavirus vaccine. Curtis even asked if the pharmacy had any information about the Laramie Public Health facility (located next to the Downtown Clinic) that often works with Safeway Pharmacy. She was told they had no information.
“It’s not [Safeway’s] responsibility to inform the public, but I thought ‘this isn’t the time to be that way,’” Curtis said.
It appears part of the increasing frustration might be due to the apparent lack of information shared between public health authorities and health care facilities — specifically, where on the priority list vaccine administrators are at, based on individuals contacted for comment.
Ivinson Memorial Hospital received 700 doses in December, 515 which have been administered. The majority of first priority 1a subgroups have been offered the vaccine, according to IMH’S COVID-19 vaccine page, but there is no indication of when 1b priority groups can expect to qualify.
Vaccines were supposedly offered to all Phase 1a subgroups 1-9 last week and beginning this week will extend the eligibility to subgroup 10, including licensed/credentialed medical and dental direct care staff with regular exposure to potentially positive patients, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. All notices of eligibility will be mailed to each household.
A phone conversation with an unidentified male at IMH Tuesday said the public should not expect to receive eligibility until sometime in early spring. After inquires were made about who has been vaccinated and where the facility was on their priority list, the call was abruptly ended on the hospital’s end. A call about confirmation regarding public eligibility from Chief Nursing Officer Nicole Rooney was not returned by press time.
Frustration from uncertainty is understandable, and sometimes specific questions aren’t always resolved with specific answers. Each county and medical facility differs in size and distribution propensity. Although Casper-Natrona County (which will begin offering vaccines to anyone older than 70 sometime tomorrow) has a slightly larger population than Albany County, there are other factors to consider.
Kim Deti, media specialist with Wyoming Public Health, spoke to the hare-paced progression of distribution.
“It always seems further behind than we really are,” Deti said, adding there is a 72-hour lag time between the time a patient gets vaccinated and when the information updates in the online system.
She drew attention to the behind-the-scene complexities contributing to distribution and urged community members to remain patient. According to her official statement, the relatively small amount of doses received in Wyoming last month requires careful planning, hence the prioritization of health care personnel and high-risk individuals.
The bottom line: there are enough individuals in each priority subgroup that want to vaccinate but due to the limited amount of doses, cannot. Deti also said the challenge is getting enough people to vaccinate without wasting resources.
“You can’t just open a single vial,” she said, adding there must be a certain amount of people willing and able to vaccinate.
Conspiracy theories like vaccine hoarding are unlikely, Deti said, adding there is a logical reason behind the distribution process. Albany County expects to receive another 1,000 first-dose vaccines by the end of January, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.