Teton County residents who are 80 or older will soon be able to get in a queue to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, though shots for that population won’t be administered for some time.
Rachael Wheeler, public health response coordinator for the Teton County Health Department, told the Jackson Hole Daily that the county has the go-ahead to move into the next phase of vaccination. Once the department moves through two higher-tier, employment-based priority subgroups — first responders not vaccinated in the first round, and then funeral home workers — it will move on to older folks, starting with those age 80 and up, and, once that group receives its first dose of the vaccine, to those 70 and older.
“We will be focusing on the oldest members of our community first,” Wheeler said, in part because older people face an increased risk of serious complications or death from COVID-19.
The first phase of Wyoming’s vaccination program, 1a, included 17 groups, mostly health care workers and first responders. The phase Teton County is moving into, 1b, is more expansive and also includes National Guard members and, further down the line, teachers, grocery store workers and more.
Wheeler said the goal is to administer the first round of vaccines in 1b — those for the remaining first responders and funeral home employees — next week, and move on to the 80-and-up population the following week, which starts Jan. 18.
Starting Monday, Teton County residents over 80 should be able to visit www.tetoncountywy.gov/covidvax to sign up to get in line to receive a shot, and call a phone number that will be posted on the webpage if they need assistance.
Residents of St. John’s Living Center and Legacy Lodge at Jackson Hole have already been offered a first dose of the vaccine, Wheeler said, and moving into the next phase, residents of other senior abodes such as the Pioneer Homestead Apartments will be able to get in a queue so long as they’re age 80 or up, and, later, 70 or older. People can check the same website for updates as to when the health department is ready to take names for subsequent age ranges.
Teton County is set to receive 800 doses of the Moderna vaccine in January, which will be for people’s first jabs. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require an initial shot, and a follow-up three to four weeks later.
“We’ll be working on getting the second doses out along with also getting the 800 new people scheduled,” Wheeler said.
Moving through “Phase 1b” will likely take time, she added, estimating that anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 people in the area are over 70, “and that may be an understatement.”
“I believe we’ll be in 1b for multiple months,” Wheeler said.
Priority groups in Phase 1b are designated primarily by employment, so the health department is working with employers and other community partners to figure out when and how to notify people in those categories of their eligibility. Wheeler said she doesn’t expect to be able to vaccinate people in later categories until February or later.
This article has been updated with the full link for the Health Department's webpage about COVID-19 vaccines. Typing the full address — www.tetoncountywy.gov/covidvax — into your browser bar will bring you to the page. Omitting the "www." at the front end will direct you to an error page. — Eds.