Anita Yates gets the vaccine from Jill Quigley. (Photo by Angie Erickson)

A team of nurses and EMTs descended on the old Meeteetse fire station last Wednesday. They set up chairs in a bay, socially distanced, took out their syringes and vials of vaccines, and waited for the people to arrive.

Park County Public Health planned the clinic to save time and money in vaccinating the third-largest population center in the county against the novel coronavirus.

“We’re going to vaccinate the whole damn town,” Public Health Nurse Bill Crampton said last week.

Vaccine clinics began in Powell on Thursday. Meanwhile, health care workers across the county who wanted the vaccine could get it and the county is moving into the next phase of vaccination. Cody's long-term care residents were nearly wholly vaccinated on Jan. 5, according the care center director Brian Huso. 

Armed with 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine – 40 vials in all and more than initially anticipated – people filed in and filed out of the Meeteetse fire station with ease. Those who went said the event was well-run and well-organized, and they were able to get in and out in about 20 minutes.

“From both Jim (Yockey’s) and my points-of-view, it was very well done,” said wife June Yockey. “There were a lot of safety measures. Everybody had distance. We got a call to come in and you didn’t have to wait.”

Yockey is in her 70s and has some other medical conditions that could put her at a higher risk of severe effects from COVID-19. Her doctors recommended she get vaccinated against the disease as soon as possible. Despite there being some concern surrounding the vaccine and possible side effects, Yockey wasn’t worried. She likened it to the yearly flu vaccine.

“I feel that a lot of viruses mutate and I think unfortunately this is going to be with us for a long time,” Yockey said. “Every year when we get the flu shot, we don’t know what it will be like either. I just felt it was the best thing for me, personally, to do.”

Charles Yates, 73, has been substitute teaching in Meeteetse. A former teacher in Colorado and candidate for the Cody School Board this election cycle, Yates hasn’t been able to get back in the classroom because of the virus. Now vaccinated, he’ll be able to go back to work.

“They’ve really needed me the last few months,” Yates said. “Plus, I’m 73 years old and with that age and one of the conditions I have puts me in the higher risk group. It’s really stopped me from being able to substitute teach.”

Both Yockey and Yates said the mood in the clinic wasn’t one of apprehension or anxiety, but of relief. For Yates, it was a relief to get it. Yockey said people were laughing as they waited to get the all-clear to leave after the shots were administered.

The clinic went off without a hitch in an unusually successful example of intergovernmental cooperation. Crampton was quick to give much of the credit for the success of the day to Angie Johnson, the clerk treasurer for Meeteetse, and her efforts organizing the event.

“Overall it was great experience,” Crampton said. “A lot of that again is thanks to Angie. She organized everything, got people there in a timely way... It wouldn’t have been near as smooth if she hadn’t done that initial work.”

Johnson spent time working with Meeteetse Mayor J.W. Yetter and other members of the town staff to build a call list during the pandemic, to get in contact with the people in and around the town in case they needed anything. When it came time to get the word out about the clinic, they used the call list to establish a schedule.

Johnson was quick to deflect credit away from herself for the effort, instead giving it to the team she worked with to get it done, including other members of the city staff and the fire department.

“It was a really good, positive way to show that all of us can coordinate together and help our communities,” she said. “Especially in the turmoil that’s occurring, we might as well work together. It showed in general that we’re all good people. Wyoming has that air about them. We want to take care of our people, we really do.

In the school

Full-time members of the Meeteetse School District also took advantage of the opportunity to get the vaccine. Superintendent Shane Ogden said about 85% of the staff at the school took advantage of the opportunity to get the vaccine, with other teachers and administrators covering class periods while some went to the clinic.

“Our goal has always been to keep kids here and keep them in session face-to-face,” Ogden said. “We certainly hope through these vaccinations that will continue to be the case.”

A small spike in cases among members of the district over the winter break cleared up before teachers and students returned to school, timing that worked well with the vaccine clinic and the district calendar. Ogden was happy to get the vaccine as early as they did.

“The surprise of being able to get the vaccination so early, I think we feel pretty blessed to be able to get it,” he said.

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