INDIANAPOLIS — After a small bump in vaccines when Hoosiers 12-15 first became eligible, vaccination numbers have returned to freefall, with the number of shots being distributed continuing to crash.
Locally, first-time vaccine recipients dropped by nearly half again, while the number of people needing to come in for their second shots is also continuing to dry up.
Indiana as a state stands no reasonable chance of hitting a 70% vaccination rate President Joe Biden has set as a goal for the U.S. by July 4.
As of Friday afternoon, 44.88% of Hoosiers age 12 and older have become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with numbers in the four-county area lagging that statewide average.
As of Friday, however, just over 50% of the eligible population has received at least one shot of a vaccine, which could put the state somewhere around 50% full vaccination rate by the Fourth of July holiday.
Locally, however, vaccine numbers continue to plummet, with just 581 residents in the four-county area coming in for their first shot over the last week. That’s a decrease of 36% from 907 first-timers in the prior week.
At it’s highest points, the four-county area had been vaccinating more than 3,500 new people each week, numbers that have been in steady decline.
Beyond first-timers not coming in to get shots, clinics have also seen a recent, dramatic drop in people coming back for their second shots. That number fell to 794 this week, a 44.5% drop from last week.
Those numbers will continue to drop throughout this month since the rate of new vaccinations has been in decline, which dictates that follow-up shots will also decline since the second dose is administered a month later.
The local drops mirror similar plunges in statewide vaccine numbers.
First-time vaccinations across Indiana also dropped about 35.5% this past week, while second shots were down 32.5%.
Indiana is now averaging fewer than 13,500 total doses given per day, significantly down from a high point of more than 56,000 per day in early April.
While the state closes in on 45% of the eligible population becoming fully vaccinated, all four counties are lagging that rate.
Steuben County, which for a time was running ahead of the state average, has fallen back but still leads the local area with 41.3% vaccination rate. DeKalb County remains in second with 37% of its population immunized, then Noble County at 32.8%.
LaGrange County remains the least-vaccinated county in Indiana, at just 21.8% fully vaccinated.
Local vaccine clinics have shifted amid severely reduced demand. Steuben and DeKalb county health departments closed their previous shot clinic locations, with Steuben County moving to a smaller location in Angola and DeKalb County dropping out of the vaccination effort, instead referring local residents to pharmacies or other public locations nearby.
Noble County has trimmed back its clinic hours in response to the drop in demand and plans to close up shop at the Noble County Public Library branch in Albion at the end of this month.
Despite two months elapsing since all Hoosiers 16 and older became eligible for vaccines, vaccination rates remain stubbornly low among younger populations.
Fewer than 30% of Hoosiers under age 30 are yet to become fully vaccinated, with rates under 35% for those in their 30s. Vaccination rates are sub-50% for Hoosiers age 40-55, with only older populations showing strong uptake.
Although younger people face significantly lower risk of severe illness or death verging on near-zero percentages for the very young, health officials are still advising everyone get vaccinated as a way to not only protect populations that can’t get vaccinated — or populations who simply won’t — but also because wider immunity also helps prevent the virus from finding more ground to duplicate and possibly mutate into a new variant that could be more dangerous or circumvent current vaccine formulas.
More than 73% of Hoosiers age 65 and older have been fully vaccinated, numbers that aren’t shifting much lately suggesting that the remaining quarter of the senior population maybe never will get the shot.
In total, 92% of Indiana’s 13,244 documented COVID-19 deaths have been among people age 60 and older, with known-case death rates higher than 1-in-5 among COVID-19 patients age 80 and older.
The vaccines have proven to be highly effective thus far in preventing severe illness and deaths.
Case counts, hospitalizations and deaths have all dropped dramatically in tandem with rising vaccination rates, with the most pronounced drops occurring in the more highly vaccinated age groups.