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Park County struggling with COVID-19 vaccine availability

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Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 11:50 PM CST
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CODY, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Over 29,000 people reside in Park County, Wyoming, according to census estimates. Almost 25 percent are over the age of 65 - and many of those residents are anxiously awaiting their turn to mark themselves “safe” from the Coronavirus pandemic.

But the vaccines that have been distributed so far don’t even come close to meeting the county’s needs, according to Bill Crampton, the Park County Public Health Nursing Supervisor.

“Vaccines are coming in drips and drabs,” he explains. “They tell us they’re coming, I’m supposedly going to get another flat of vaccines - 195 vials - by the first week of February. But I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Crampton says they can get 5 doses from each vial - so almost 1000 people can get one inoculation with each flat that’s delivered. But he points out that’s not even close to meeting the needs of the Park County communities - and until he knows for sure when the next shipment will come, his office is not allowing people to make appointments for vaccine clinics like the one held in Cody this week.

“Once we start seeing more, then we can open up the online sign-ins, so that when I have vaccine, I know the public is going to get the vaccine.” Crampton clarifies, “I don’t want somebody to sign up and then I don’t get vaccine when I think I’m going to, and then I have to cancel. I don’t want to go there.”

He says they have access to both the Pfizer vaccine - which has to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures - and the Moderna vaccine. And he explains that the vaccines are being distributed throughout the county.

“I’ve actually made arrangements with two pharmacies here in town - I’m not going to name them because their phones would go nuts - they’re doing a great job, they’re giving them to seventy-and-olders, their clients.

“And then the other place that I’m sending vaccines, and I just got back a little while ago from Columbus, Montana - I rendezvoused with a Park Ranger from Yellowstone. Since Yellowstone is mostly inside Park County, Wyoming, we provide vaccine to them as well.”

The people who attended the vaccine clinic in Cody on Tuesday had signed up several weeks ago, according to Crampton, and are either over the age of 70 or are in the 1a and 1b tier for vaccinations - first responders and health care professionals who didn’t get in the first round of inoculations. The clinics are staffed by health care professionals and volunteers coordinated by the Park County Department of Homeland Security.

“We’ve got the CERT volunteers [Community Emergency Response Team], Jack Tatum from Homeland Security Division has helped coordinate them - they’re in here helping watch our patients waiting back there, they’re helping greet people, with their lists.”

When people arrive for their vaccination, they fill out paperwork, a nurse administers the shot, they are watched carefully for reactions, then are given a card that shows they’ve been vaccinated and lets them know when their next shot is scheduled.

But Crampton points out that the number of people who are waiting for vaccines far outnumbers the number of vaccines that will be available. He notes that although the CDC and the Wyoming State Health Office have suggested that those 65 and older will soon be able to get the vaccine, we’re not there yet.

“In the 1a-1b category, if I gave everybody their vaccine, that’s 3,000 people. That means I need 6,000 doses. The 65 and over group, according to Medicare, I’ve got almost 8,000 people here for that. So we’re already talking just slightly under half of the county. Because, that’s 16,000 vaccines for the 65 and over, and I’m getting them in 1,000 vaccine rounds. And then I have to plan for a second dose.”

In other words, the wait for many residents could stretch on for a while.

“Even if they expand it, I need the vaccine,” he exclaims. “You know, if anybody out there wants to call their congressman or senator, feel free, because that’s all we’re waiting on.”

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