Cell “Vaxi Taxi” presents COVID-19 photographs in Wyoming

Jhala French packs up the Teton County Health Department’s Vaxi taxi after its stop at Jackson Hole Airport on Monday afternoon. The mobile vaccination team stopped in Kelly, Moran and Moose that day and spent Tuesday in Wilson and Alta. The pop-up clinic will make two stops on Wednesday, first at Hoback Market from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then at The Bird from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. | Ryan Dorgan, Jackson Hole News & Guide

JACKSON, Wyoming (AP) – With 80% of adults over 18 in Teton County fully vaccinated, vaccinated people now make up the majority of the community. Health authorities are now launching an innovative vaccination campaign to further increase community protection against COVID-19.

“The whole goal is to try to reach people, to make it easier for people,” said Rachael Wheeler, public health coordinator.

The Ministry of Health’s new “Vaxi Taxi,” a repurposed START bus that has been converted into a mobile vaccine clinic, aims to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines by reaching remote populations who are unable to inject at the city health department.

“It’s very convenient for us to have a more mobile unit that we can easily stand in,” said Wheeler.

Nurses check in patients under a tent outside the bus and question patients about possible COVID-19 symptoms or recent contact with infected people. Nurses also patiently describe side effects that might occur after vaccination, usually a sore arm and mild fever, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Patients then head into the Vaxi taxi, where they receive their shots in the seats that passengers normally use for transportation. The Vaxi-Taxi has two tables that are easy to assemble and disassemble, seats for vaccine recipients, medical forms and equipment for vaccine distribution, and a team of friendly professionals waiting to administer the vaccines.

Outside there are chairs under a tent so that the recipients can rest in the shade while waiting after the recordings.

The health department has used mobile clinics in the past to support the public with flu vaccines. Usually their mobile clinics only transport supplies to vaccination sites like the Jackson Hole Senior Center.

Operation with the Vaxi-Taxi enables the team to hold clinics in more locations in the valley, as well as more efficient facilities and easy cleaning.

Bryce Villalobos, a station agent at Jackson Hole Airport, picked up his vaccine in a Vaxi taxi in the Jackson Airport parking lot on Monday evening. His chance at work was bittersweet as the first COVID-19 death in Teton County was Bill Sweney, an airport worker with whom Villalobos had worked personally.

Some members of the community, like Villalobos, may find it more difficult to schedule vaccination appointments due to lack of transportation or scheduling conflicts that prevent them from visiting the Department of Health clinic while it is open. By offering additional options and websites for vaccinations, the Vaxi-Taxi removes these supply barriers.

“I worked 12 to 13 hour days, I didn’t have time to make an appointment,” said Villalobos.

Appointments are not required for the Vaxi-Taxi, so everyone is welcome to show up at any stop on the route. You can find detailed timetable information at TetonCountyWY.gov/vaxitaxi.

The mobile clinic offers both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose regimen while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only one. Both are available to people aged 18 and over.

Anyone under the age of 18 needs the Pfizer shot, which is only available from the health department, as it needs to be refrigerated.

The Vaxi-Taxi also works directly with employers and encourages employers who are interested to coordinate with the health department to get the Vaxi-Taxi into their business.

“Some companies have already reached out to us specifically so we are reaching out and will continue to reach out to different companies to see where the demand is,” said Wheeler.

On Wednesday the Vaxi Taxi drove south with stops at Hoback Market and The Bird.

“Increasing equity and access is important for public health,” said Wheeler. “We have the feeling that the Vaxi-Taxi does exactly that.”

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