An official with the Wyoming Department of Health has resigned after suggesting without evidence that the coronavirus pandemic was engineered to spread communism.
Igor Shepherd, who had served as the department’s readiness and countermeasures manager, made the remarks at a Nov. 10 event in Loveland, Colo., according to the Casper Star Tribune. Shepherd referred to the virus as the “so-called pandemic” and claimed both it and the vaccination process were plots by Russia and China to promote communism internationally.
"The Wyoming Department of Health has accepted Igor Shepherd's resignation. We decline to comment further on this personnel matter," department spokesperson Kim Deti told the newspaper Wednesday.
Deti has emphasized that Shepherd, a medical doctor who has worked with the department’s Public Health Division for seven years, “has not had what would be considered a leadership role in Wyoming’s response.”
“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 told The Associated Press last week.
Public health officials have said baseless conspiracy theories about the virus are particularly dangerous as international regulators prepare to approve vaccines because they may spread enough skepticism to keep inoculation from being effective.
“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,” researchers from Johns Hopkins and Texas State University wrote in a July paper.
Wyoming, the nation’s least populous state, has seen a total of more than 37,000 cases of the virus and 280 deaths. A statewide mask mandate took effect Monday.