The coronavirus vaccine is now available to anyone age 18 or older, as the Converse County Health Department, Memorial Hospital of Converse County and local pharmacies ramp up their administration of the vaccine.
At MHCC in Douglas, all adults ages 18 and older can now receive either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Moderna vaccine.
Both are free and are available to anyone with or without insurance.
Recipients can choose which vaccine to receive.
MHCC is holding their vaccination clinics inside the hospital on Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
In the weeks ahead, MHCC staff is also looking to schedule clinics on Saturdays.
On April 1, Douglas residents Pam and Gary Ferguson visited MHCC to get their J&J vaccine, partly on the recommendation of their daughter, who works as a medical assistant in Oregon.
Still, “it was a hard decision to trust something that came out so fast,” Pam said.
The County Health Department, meanwhile, will transition from their popular drive-thru clinics to office hours for vaccinations. They will hold their last second-dose clinic for the Moderna vaccine at the Rolling Hills Town Shop May 5 from noon to 6 p.m.
In Douglas, the department will hold their final first-dose clinic April 22 from 3-7 p.m. at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds, with the second dose clinic to be held May 20.
After that, the department will hold office hours likely on Wednesdays and Fridays. See the Budget and Glenrock Independent and the newspapers’ websites and their Facebook page for more details once they are finalized.
And, the pharmacy at the Safeway in Douglas is now offering the Moderna vaccine to anyone over age 18.
Recipients should call the pharmacy at 307-358-1706 to schedule an appointment; the pharmacy is only administering the vaccine to people in groups of 10.
Last week, Frontier Drug in Douglas also began offering the J&J vaccine to anyone 18 and older.
Recipients can call ahead to schedule an appointment or simply show up. Staff will only be providing the vaccine Monday through Friday, though they will do their best to accommodate people’s schedules, co-owner Jan Shatto said.
The expanded availability of the vaccine comes as more areas across the United States open up vaccine access to a wider set of people.
More than 162,000 people in Wyoming – a little over a quarter of the state’s population – have so far received at least their first dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, last week Gov. Mark Gordon announced all Wyoming residents ages 16 and older are eligible for the vaccine across 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,” he said.
At the moment, however, there is no way for 16-year olds and 17-year olds to get access to the approved vaccine in Converse County. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for people 16 and older, and that vaccine is not yet available here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is evaluating whether the Moderna vaccine can be used for 16- and 17-year olds; if so, it may be available to those groups later in the summer.
MHCC does not have the Pfizer vaccine, though staff there said they are working with the state to obtain it.
The Moderna, Pfizer and J&J vaccines are all safe and effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommends all adults get a COVID vaccine as soon as they are eligible.
After a spike in cases in Wyoming in late 2020, cases have been falling since January.
Still, health experts urge caution.
“The virus is still among us and alive and well,” Converse County Public Health Response Coordinator Johnna Shepherd said.
She recommended that everyone still continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask in public and wash their hands diligently.
“The more people that get vaccinated,” she said, “the sooner life can get back to normal.”