Wyoming, Idaho among bottom five for first COVID shots


JACKSON — Wyoming and Idaho boast two of the lowest rates of residents who have received their first shots of a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 33.8 percent of Wyomingites have gotten their first shot, and 33.7 percent of Idahoans have. That’s good for 46th and 47th among the 50 states.

The numbers are comparatively rosier for the two Mountain West states when looking at fully vaccinated people, meaning those who have received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna shots or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In Wyoming, 27.4 percent of people are fully vaccinated, while that number is 26.6 percent in Idaho.

Wyoming and Idaho jump out of the bottom five when looking at fully vaccinated numbers, but they still rank solidly in the bottom half of the country (37th and 41st) and trail the national rate of vaccination, which sits at 30 percent.

The numbers show a troubling trend in the Mountain West’s push for herd immunity.

Roughly 7 percent of people in Wyoming and Idaho have received a first shot but are not yet fully vaccinated. In other states, especially in New England, that number is much higher, around 15 percent on average, with 30 percent of people in New Hampshire waiting to get their second shots.

That means the rate of fully vaccinated people is set to rise much faster in those states, setting up Idaho and Wyoming to potentially drop even further.

Public health officials are combating the fact that people are no longer champing at the bit to be vaccinated.

“We’re seeing a real slowdown and supply is outpacing demand,” Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond told county commissioners last week.

Since December, the Teton County Health Department built its capacity to the point where it could administer thousands of shots in one week.

Last week, however, the Health Department administered just 210 first doses out of the 2,298 shots it gave out, so in a few weeks it will have relatively few second doses to administer.

Still, Teton County has the highest rate of fully vaccinated people in the state — its 56 percent of all residents well outpacing Fremont County, which sits in second at 34 percent.

The comparatively slow rollout compared with many other states could in part be due to the low levels of the virus circulating in Wyoming.

“We’ve had relatively low levels of COVID-19 illnesses and hospitalizations statewide for a while now, which affects threat perception,” Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti said earlier this month.

“With schools and most businesses open it may be harder for some people to see the personal need for vaccination,” she said.

Officials still hope more people will line up to get the vaccines. They’ve been working to address “vaccine hesitancy,” the term for people who aren’t sure if they should get the shots. While some people can’t be vaccinated because of allergic reactions or other health conditions, the shots have proven safe and effective, something public health officials say they’ll continue to educate the public on.

“We know many people have questions about the authorized COVID-19 vaccines, which is understandable,” Deti said.

“We expect to increase our outreach activities. ... We will also be engaging in a significant informational campaign to help people understand why vaccination is important.”

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