COVID-19 vaccinations becoming more widely available

While the number of lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the county and state, there is good news on the horizon with Converse County beginning the next phase of the vaccine rollout to include essential workers and the elderly.

The number of positive cases rose by 30 Jan. 5-11 with 811 cases, however the number of active cases decreased from 38 to 30 as of the afternoon of Jan. 11.

While the cases continue to climb, the county has completed Tier 1a of the vaccine rollout program, according to Converse County Public Health Nurse Manager Darcey Cowardin. Tier 1a includes hospital and clinic workers, providers and first responders.

“We worked with the Memorial Hospital of Converse County to get everyone in the first tier who wanted a vaccine done,” Cowardin said. “The patients at Douglas Care Center were also included in that tier and anyone who wanted the vaccine has received it.”

The next step, Tier 1b, will be those in the community who are 70 years old or older or are considered essential workers, which include people who work with the public like postal workers, grocery story and convenience store clerks, etc., according to Cowardin.

The public health department is giving out the vaccines in a drive-thru style like they did with flu shots and COVID-19 testing.

“We are using the city of Douglas’ CodeRed system to send out messages to those next on the list,” she said. “That message will give the location and time for the next immunization.”

The health department is averaging 100 vaccine doses a week. The alerts will ensure that the immunization drive-thrus won’t be inundated with people and they will have enough vaccine to ensure that everyone will be able to get vaccinated. The department receives a limited number of vials and the shelf life further could limit supplies, according to Cowardin.

“The vial contains 10 doses and once opened needs to be used within six hours,” she said. “We are allocated a certain number of doses based on our need and population.”

MHCC also received the vaccination and is working with public health to get the doses out to the community.

Those who have received the vaccine have been grateful, Cowardin said.

“Not one person we’ve given a dose to hasn’t been thankful,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback, and no one has reported any major side effects.”

Most people will experience a sore arm, feeling run down or achy and can even run a low-grade fever, Cowardin said.

“We’ve given out 150 doses without wasting a single dose, something that we are very proud of,” she said.

No one knows when the next group, Tier 1c, will start. It depends on the CDC recommendations which are then evaluated by Wyoming Medical Ethics Committee and the state Department of Health.

If you are 70 or older, or an essential worker and wish to receive the vaccine, please call the public health department at 358-2536 to add your name to the list.

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