INDIANAPOLIS — Vaccine numbers ticked up slightly both locally and statewide this past week.
Rates of new people coming in to get COVID-19 shots remains low, but the small bump up is a change in a pattern that’s been otherwise in steady decline over recent weeks.
The four-county area and the state both saw increases in the number of first-timers coming in to get a COVID-19 vaccine as well as an uptick in new fully vaccinated Hoosiers, representing either those getting a second dose or a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Locally, first-time recipients increased slightly to 636 residents across the four-county area, up from an all-time weekly low of 581 first-timers last week.
The weekly number is still well below the 907 who came in the week before last and a far cry from the high points of more than 3,500 coming in for a first dose at the historical peak in April.
The slowdown isn’t due to a lack of people who could be getting the shot — still about 2-in-3 residents in the four-county area age 12 and older are yet to become fully vaccinated.
Statewide, Indiana’s first-time vaccine numbers also increased slightly to nearly 49,000 this week, up from about 46,000 the prior week.
Outside of the week ending May 21 — which an increase was seen primarily because it was the first full week after vaccines were approved for the new group of Hoosiers age 12-15 — this was the first week vaccine numbers have ticked up compared to the week prior since the all-time highs set the week ended April 16.
Vaccine demand has been in steady decline since mid-April, which was shortly after vaccines were opened to anyone 16 years and older, representing at that time a full opening to any Hoosier who wanted a shot, since use of Pfizer vaccines for those 12-15 hadn’t yet been approved at that time.
Indiana has seen COVID-19 activity plummet as more people have received the vaccine and as warmer weather has set into the area. Cases, positivity, hospitalizations and deaths are at or near all-time lows once again across Indiana.
It’s unclear whether seasonality may also be an factor at this time. COVID-19 cases dropped to low figures in summer 2020 coming out of the initial surge of cases in April and May 2020 and remained relatively low until fall weather started setting in. As colder temperatures arrived, cases shot up to all-time highs in November and December 2020.
Indiana has fallen off those records so far in 2021, with rapid declines in hospitalizations and deaths as more vaccines have been rolled out, especially to the more vulnerable elderly populations.
Vaccine uptake among the oldest Hoosiers has been high, about 75%-plus for those age 65 and older, and 65% for those 60-65.
After that, however, vaccine rates fall off with every five-year cohort, down to just 25% of those 16-19 who are fully vaccinated.
The only younger demographic with a higher vaccination rate than the five-year age group above it is the 20-24 age group. That’s likely because some Indiana colleges are requiring students returning for the 2021-22 school year to be vaccinated in order to attend.
This week represented the first week that Hoosiers age 12-15 are starting to show up as fully vaccinated, with about 7% of that age group reaching full vaccination status.
Adolescents only became available for Pfizer vaccines back on May 13 and since second shots are spaced about a month out from the first, this is the first time that some of those early adopters could get their second dose and achieve the full vaccination status.
Across Indiana, approximately 46.5% of all Hoosiers age 12 and older are now fully vaccinated, a rate that lags most of the rest of the U.S.
In the four-county area, the uptake rate is even lower, at just 34% for the four-county area.
Steuben County, which once was ahead of the statewide average, has fallen behind but remains closest with about 42% vaccination rate, followed by DeKalb County at 37.9%, Noble County at 33.7% and LaGrange County at a state-worst 22.2%.
President Joe Biden had set a goal of having 70% of all adults 18 and older vaccinated with at least one shot by July 4. Barring some major unexpected change in vaccine uptake over the next few week, Indiana is almost guaranteed to miss that mark.
Projections based on Indiana’s recent vaccine rates suggest that the state isn’t likely to hit 60% vaccination until the end of the year.
Pfizer and Moderna have both applied for full Food and Drug Administration approval for their vaccines, which, if granted, might sway some additional people on the sidelines to get the shot.
Indiana is also still working toward getting vaccines into the hands of primary care physicians, who might be able to communicate one-on-one with their patients to answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and alleviate any issues and thereby also help boost vaccination rate.
Health officials encourage all eligible Hoosiers to get vaccinated as a way to not only provider protection from the virus, even for those who are already at low risk such as the young, but also to help prevent spread of variant strains of the virus and bolster the effect of communal protection against the virus as more and more people become immune.
The vaccines have proven highly effective. The state has recorded just over 2,000 “breakthrough” cases — infections that occur after someone has been fully vaccinated — which represents just 0.077% of all vaccinated Hoosiers.