More Wyoming residents seek vaccination

CASPER — Nearly 8,800 people in Wyoming received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within the last two weeks. That’s the highest amount statewide since this spring, when the shots first became available to the general public.

The rise in vaccinations has coincided with the emergence of the delta variant in Wyoming, which has led to a massive rise in cases and hospitalizations. Vaccinations began to tick up in July and occurred even more frequently in August and early September, state figures show.

Wyoming sped through vaccinating willing priority populations faster than most states, opening inoculations to the general adult public in the last days of March.

Nearly 21,000 Wyomingites received a first dose of a two-shot vaccine in the two-week period after the shots were first opened to the masses. In the next two-week period, that figure fell to less than 8,000 people.

Uptake plateaued through July, dipping to just over 3,200 residents seeking a first shot between the last week of June and the first week of July. In each two-week period since then, the amount of people being vaccinated has increased.

Appointments for the one-shot Janssen vaccine have stayed relatively consistent through the summer but have ticked up slightly in the last few weeks.

Despite the progress, Wyoming still has the second-lowest rate in the U.S. for both the proportion of residents fully vaccinated, and those who have received at least one shot.

Fewer than 36 percent of residents were fully inoculated Monday, according to state data. The New York Times has that figure slightly higher at 39 percent, which puts Wyoming in a tie with Alabama, Mississippi and Idaho for the lowest vaccination rate in the nation.

The state is also in last in the nation for youth vaccination rates. State data has just over 20 percent of Wyomingites 12 to 17 years old fully vaccinated. The New York Times analysis has about 29 percent of residents in that age group having received at least one shot.

COVID-19 is surging in Wyoming, with hospitalizations and active cases near the state’s winter peak.

There were 230 people hospitalized for the virus Tuesday, and more than 3,400 infections were considered active.

At the height of the pandemic in late November, 247 people were being treated for the virus in Wyoming hospitals and active cases neared 12,000 — roughly 2 percent of the state. At that time, more than a dozen counties implemented local mask requirements. Shortly afterward, Gov. Mark Gordon announced a statewide mandate.

State and local health officials have since credited that mandate with the plunge in infections that followed. By March, Wyoming’s face mask order was lifted, as restrictions on gatherings and public spaces were limited and eventually dissolved. Hospitalizations also dropped precipitously, with less than two dozen being reported on days this spring.

Gordon has said his office will not implement any more mandates or lockdowns, while his state health officer and federal officials are encouraging everyone to mask up in areas with moderate to high virus transmission as a more contagious variant spreads.

Gordon has said he encourages residents to get vaccinated but that the decision is “intensely personal” and he is not planning any interventions to increase uptake.