The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) has provided updates on vaccine booster doses due to the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19 across Wyoming and the country.

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Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the WDH, said sequencing results and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates show the omicron variant has become the most common version of COVID-19 infections in Wyoming.

"We are currently seeing big jumps in Wyoming’s case counts again, likely due to the omicron variant," Harrist said. "This is again not like the COVID-19 we have become familiar with because it spreads much more easily between people. Unfortunately, when a virus transmits between people easily more people become infected. While we aren’t yet certain how much severe illness will accompany the increase in cases, we do know vaccines are the best tool we have to protect people from severe illness. We continue to encourage eligible adults and children to say yes to free, safe and effective vaccination if they haven’t already and to encourage those eligible for booster doses to get them as soon as possible to enhance and extend their protection."

Severe illness in this case refers to a person with COVID-19 who may need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or may die.

Anna Kinder, executive director of the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, said on Dec. 22 that there has been a decrease in testing in Casper in recent weeks, with people waiting until they get very sick before being tested.

Vaccination rates in Wyoming have been slowly increasing, going from 50.9% of the population with at least one dose on Nov. 1, to 53.8% on Dec. 1.

Wyoming is currently the least vaccinated state, with 56.1% of the population taking at least one dose of the vaccine, behind Mississippi at 56.2%.

In the last seven days, Wyoming has had the second-highest death rate at eight per 100,000, behind the Northern Mariana Islands at 11.6, but since Jan. 2020 Wyoming has been in the middle at 271 deaths per 100,000.

The CDC updated its vaccine recommendations this week to include booster doses for fully vaccinated youth ages 12-15, with a booster dose of vaccine recommended for anyone over 12 who received their second Pfizer dose at least five months ago.

Adults 18 and over who received their second Moderna COVID-19 dose at least six months ago or who received a Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at least two months ago are also eligible for booster doses.

Most children ages 5-11 are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine if they haven’t yet been vaccinated.

Currently only the Pfizer-BioNTech/COMINARTY vaccine is authorized for individuals aged 12-17 years.

Answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

Keep reading to discover answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions.