person holding white and orange plastic bottle
Health departments nationwide are dealing with the pressures of the new and more transmissible Omicron variant. Photo: Spencer Davis

JACKSON, Wyo. — As the Omicron variant spreads across the U.S., health departments nationwide are faced with an increasing demand for COVID-19 booster shots. Here in Teton County, vaccine appointments are fully booked out until the second week of January 2022.

In the face of a new and more transmissible COVID strain, an understaffed and exhausted health department is doing what it can to meet the increasing pressure.

“Unfortunately, we cannot expand much, we doubled [vaccine clinic] capacity in December and we have not been able to hire vaccinators for at least the last six weeks,” said Teton County Health Director, Jodie Pond.

Additionally, with the holidays around the corner, volunteers at the vaccine clinic were promised time off.

“We really rely on our volunteer vaccinators and they deserve to have the Christmas holiday off so we are going to close essentially from Christmas Eve to the following week after the New Year,” said Pond.

Not anticipating the recent surge, the health department’s full-time staff who work in the department’s vaccine clinics are also taking a break for the holiday.

“Our full-time staff who have worked in the COVID clinic also deserve time off.  They’ve been going nonstop since about a year ago. Unfortunately, their time off is falling at a time when people want boosters. The demand is super high but we also have limitations on our staffing. They did do a really big push through tomorrow (Dec. 23) with doubling the [vaccine clinic’s] capacity.”

Recently, Teton County’s vaccine clinic moved from the Presbyterian Church as the church needed its facility for Christmas services. At their new site, the health department has been met with the challenges of parking capacity and general logistics due to its small size. However, they plan to move back to the church after the New Year.

Over the Pass in Teton Valley, things look a bit different. In fact, at the Driggs Clinic, COVID-19 Vaccines are available on a walk-in basis. No appointment is necessary.

For now, Pond insists that the health department is working to the best of its ability with the resources it has.

“Our dilemma is that the demand is here and with Omicron at our doorstep, we are just doing the best we can.”

Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter. She's a lover of alliteration, easy-to-follow recipes and board games when everyone knows the rules. Her favorite aspect about living in the Tetons is the collective admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.