INDIANAPOLIS — As COVID-19 activity has ticked up in Indiana the last few weeks, vaccine uptake has been ticking up, too.

The increase in cases has been slow and the increase in vaccinations has been slow too, but any increase is a change from consistent weekly declines from about mid-April through the end of June.

This past week, the number of first-times coming in for shots ticked up both in the four-county area as well as statewide, posting an increase compared to the week before for the second straight week.

Locally, 534 residents received a first dose of vaccine — whether that’s a first dose of a two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — up from 425 people the week before.

Increases occurred in three of four counties led by Noble County, which had 256 people get shots, up from 147 the week prior. Steuben County increased to 120 from 100 a week ago and even LaGrange County, which is dead last in vaccination rate in Indiana’s 92 counties, showed a rise to 73 from 47 the week prior.

DeKalb County was the only county to post a decrease, falling to it’s lowest-ever mark of 85 new vaccine recipients, down from 131 last week.

Efforts to bring vaccines to where people are may be accounting for some of the recent uptick. Vaccines were available at the well-attended Balloons Aloft event in Angola from July 9-11, while vaccines have also been made available at county fairs.

Noble County also had its second vaccine clinic at East Noble Middle School in Kendallville, a follow-up to a clinic hosted at the school a month earlier.

DeKalb County doesn’t have a summer fair and hasn’t had any larger events recently, while the DeKalb County Health Department has also gotten out of the vaccination role, referring people to local pharmacies or other public sites around the area.

Statewide, first-time vaccine numbers rose to just over 35,000 for the past week, up from about 29,000 last week.

Aside from pushes from health officials to make vaccine more accessible to Hoosiers, Indiana may also be seeing an increase as COVID-19 cases have ticked up recently and as the new delta variant of the virus has started circulating in the state.

After seeing fewer than 200 new cases per day during a stretch in June, Indiana has now recorded 700-plus cases for the past three days.

About 3-in-4 cases being identified now are from the delta variant, which was originally identified in India. That variant, which has been spreading rapidly in the U.S., has been shown to be not only more contagious than the original strain, but also hits patients harder, including younger patients usually at low risk from a COVID-19 infection.

The rise in cases has been occurring almost exclusively in unvaccinated Hoosiers, as federal officials have deemed the latest increases in cases the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Since January of this year, 98% of new cases have occurred among unvaccinated Hoosiers, along with 98.6% of new hospitalizations and 98.2% of new deaths.

Breakthrough cases, infections occurring after a person receives a full vaccine regimen, are extremely rare and even when cases do occur they are generally milder than cases seen among unvaccinated people.

Indiana has just recently passed the halfway point on vaccines, with approximately 51.2% of eligible Hoosiers age 12 and older fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Rates in the four-county continue to lag the state average significantly, with the gap widening week to week.

Steuben County is the best in the region at 44.4% of its population vaccinated, followed by DeKalb County at about 41%. Noble County sits in the bottom quartile of the state at just 36.9% while LaGrange County remains last among the state’s 92 counties at just 23.3% vaccination rate.

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