As the pandemic ravages through the world, some lesser populated areas haven’t seen its effects. Take Wyoming for example, where the state responded to the coronavirus by questioning the legitimacy of the pandemic and describing a forthcoming vaccine as a biological weapon at a recent public event.
Igor Shepherd, the state of Wyoming’s health departments Readiness and Countermeasures Manager, alleged that the “so-called pandemic” and efforts to develop a vaccine are plots by Russia and China to spread communism across the globe at an event held by Keep Colorado Free and Open on November 10th.
In a story first covered by The Washington Post, Shepherd gave an hour long presentation in Loveland, Colorado under his title as a Wyoming Department of Health employee.
Shepherd has used his standing as a state public health official to undermine the states public health measures to limit the spread of the virus and distribute a vaccine in the months ahead.
Meanwhile the Governor Mark Gordon called anyone not taking the virus seriously “knuckleheads,” and declined to comment on Shepherd to NBCNews.
Department Director Mike Ceballos and State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist did not answer questions Friday, including when they became aware of Shepherd’s talk and what if anything they have done in response.
Shepherd has worked for the health department since 2013 and has been a part of the state’s team responding to Covid-19, though not in a leadership role, department spokeswoman Kim Deti said.
“All of the things we’ve said for months and the thousands of hours of dedicated work from our staff and our local partners on this response effort and our excitement for the hope the vaccine offers make our overall department position on the pandemic clear,” Deti said in identical statements Thursday to the Casper Star-Tribune, which first reported Shepherd’s presentation, and the AP on Friday.
Scientists have feared that the politicization of COVID-19 vaccines has led to skepticism which could hurt the efficacy. Vaccines are more effective if most of the population is inoculated.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Texas State University wrote a paper in July stressing that concern, the Star-Tribune reported.
“If poorly designed and executed, a Covid-19 vaccination campaign in the U.S. could undermine the increasingly tenuous belief in vaccines and the public health authorities that recommend them — especially among people most at risk of Covid-19 impacts,” the researchers wrote.