Vaccine doses

COVID-19 vaccine demand continues to drop across Indiana, as well as in northeast Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS — As has been the case almost every week since mid-April, COVID-19 vaccine uptake has declined compared to the week prior, once again setting a new record low.

This past week, fewer than 500 residents in the four-county area came in to get the first dose of a vaccine.

Only 35% of residents in the four-county area are fully vaccinated, but demand has almost totally dried up in the region.

As of Friday, the four-county area had only 431 new people come in to get a vaccine over the past week, a new record low after dropping from the previous weekly low of 500 from the week prior.

DeKalb County had 155 first-timers show up, followed by Noble County at 134. Steuben County dropped below 100 recipients for the first time with just 97 new residents coming in for a shot. LaGrange County, which has the lowest vaccination rate among Indiana’s 92 counties, had just 45 people seeking out vaccines.

Indiana’s overall demand dropped again, falling to about 33,0000 first times, down from about 39,000 the week prior.

After the initial surge of pent-up demand earlier this year, vaccine uptake has been in free fall since mid-April.

The state was giving out more than 56,000 doses per day at its highest seven-day average set back on April 12. As of this week, the daily average has fallen below 10,000 shots, with more than two-thirds of those doses coming in the form of second shots to people who received a first dose a month ago.

The dropoff has come despite the state not having a lack of people to vaccinate — only 47.8% of eligible Hoosiers age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with slightly over half having started a vaccine regimen.

While Indiana is approaching 50% vaccination rate among its eligible population, northeast Indiana is severely lagging that statewide average.

Steuben County, which once was ahead of Indiana’s overall rate but has since fallen behind it, is the closest with 43.2% of its residents fully vaccinated. DeKalb County is more than seven percentage points behind the state average at 39.46% and Noble County sits at 35.2%, trailing Indiana as a whole by about 12 and a half points.

LaGrange County remains Indiana’s least-vaccinated county, with only 22.7% of its residents fully vaccinated.

Vaccines have been highly effective at preventing new infections, with fewer than 0.1% of new infections identified as “breakthrough cases,” occurring in people who are fully vaccinated.

Both in Indiana and nationally, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are occurring almost exclusively among the non-vaccinated population.

Indiana has seen its case activity continue to drop in June, with fewer than 350 cases being identified per day. Hospitalizations have dropped to record lows and Indiana is averaging only about eight deaths per day from the virus, the lowest in history.

Those deaths still occurring, however, have started skewing younger to people in their 40s, 50s and 60s as those 70-plus are vaccinated at extremely high rates and that protection has led to an extremely sharp reduction in new deaths.

Prior to vaccine distribution starting, Hoosiers 60 and older accounted for 92% of all deaths from COVID-19, including more than half of those being people 80 years old and older.

With demand declining, attempts are now being made to bring vaccines closer to populations who need them.

On Monday, East Noble Schools is partnering with the Noble County Health Department to host a clinic at East Noble Middle School for students, their families or anyone else who might want to drop in to get a vaccine in Kendallville.

Previously, the health department has only offered shots at its clinic in Albion, outside of a few traveling clinics it has brought to local manufacturers.

In Butler, the Indiana State Department of Health will be hosting a mobile clinic next week from Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Butler Methodist Church.

DeKalb County shut down its county health department clinic at the fairgrounds at the end of May and is out of the business of providing COVID-19 vaccines, instead referring people who still want them to local pharmacies or other public sites in northeast Indiana.

On Friday, at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Awards hosted by KPC Media Group in Fort Wayne, Parkview Health representatives noted that health officials likely need to shift their approach now that demand has faded. Instead of expecting people to come get vaccines as was the case earlier, health providers will need to bring vaccines to where unvaccinated people are, making it as easy and convenient and possible for people to get a shot if they need it.

People can register for vaccine appointments at ourshot.in.gov or walk-in at any clinic providing shots.

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