Though Wyoming’s COVID-19 vaccination rate has picked up, the percentage of residents who say they’ll get vaccinated hasn’t followed suit.
Some 62% of Wyoming residents say they are very or somewhat likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, or have already received at least one dose, according to a new survey by the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center. That percentage hasn’t changed since early November.
Meanwhile, 7% of respondents say they are somewhat unlikely and 31% say they are very unlikely to receive it. Concerns about side effects remain a major reason.
“A majority of those who have not yet received the vaccine say they do not have enough information about the potential side effects,” Brian Harnisch, senior research scientist in charge of the project at WYSAC, said in a release. “Additionally, it appears that residents still have questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, as well as when and where people like them will be able to get the vaccine.”
Vaccine distribution continued to dominate the healthcare system across the state this week, with many providers inoculating residents farther down the state’s 1B priority group list. New vaccination sites also joined the distribution push, including Walmart stores.
As of Thursday, more than 76,000 Wyoming residents had received a first dose, while more than 32,000 had gotten their second. The state has received 83,675 first doses and 43,700 second doses.
“While overall available vaccine dose amounts remain low right now compared to high demand, we are seeing modest, continued increases in shipments we receive from the federal government of the authorized vaccines as well as more partners and providers coming on board,” Angie Van Houten, Community Health Section chief with the Department of Health, said in a Feb. 12 release.
However, the wintry weather that slammed into much of the country since then has impacted vaccine shipments, the DOH said, likely causing delays.
The state’s vaccine rollout has paralleled a steady decline of infections, and Wyoming’s COVID-19 metrics saw marked improvements again this week.
Attitudes in the WYSAC survey suggest a measure of relief — or perhaps fatigue — regarding these trends.
Since November, the percentage of respondents who report being very or fairly anxious about the spread in Wyoming has dropped. A plurality of survey respondents, 35%, say they believe the worst is behind us in Wyoming. And the percentage of respondents who say they are following the news about COVID-19 “very closely” has declined, from a high of 57% in March to 29% in February.
One thing that remains of high concern in Wyoming: the pandemic’s economic impact. Some 61% said they are very concerned about COVID-19’s effect on the economy, while 32% are somewhat concerned.
Meanwhile, the state’s COVID-19 infection numbers continued a positive downward trend.
Known active cases dipped to 720 by Friday morning, down 11% from last week, and hospitalizations hit 32 by Thursday, the lowest that number has been since Oct. 4. The Department of Health reported 15 COVID-19 related deaths — the lowest weekly tally since the third week of October and eight fewer than last week — bringing the state’s total to 662.
All told, Wyoming has tallied 45,471 lab-confirmed infections. That includes 356 new cases this week.
According to a Feb. 14 weekly report issued by the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, four Wyoming counties are in the “red” zone for infections, down one from the week before. They are Teton, Carbon, Bighorn and Converse.
Crook and Niobrara counties, meanwhile, reported zero active cases by Friday morning.
If vaccination goes favorably, the University of Wyoming is planning for a fall 2021 semester with more in-person experiences and fewer pandemic restrictions.
UW faculty, staff and students living in residence halls are slated to be eligible for the vaccine as part of Wyoming’s 1c phase, according to UW. Under the college’s plan, faculty and staff members would need to have access to the vaccine at least six weeks ahead of the scheduled Aug. 23 start of the fall semester for the semester to proceed with face-to-face classes at maximum capacity, in-person student engagement programs and in-person athletic events.
“Much could change between now and the start of the fall semester, including transmission of new variants of the virus and other unforeseen developments,” UW President Ed Seidel said in a release. “However, we see great reason for optimism that we’ll have much more of a pre-pandemic campus environment this fall.”