INDIANAPOLIS — Vaccine numbers in the four-county area were up slightly this week, but all of the increase is attributable to Noble County.
Indiana as a whole also saw a small uptick in first-time vaccine recipients, although overall numbers of new people coming in for shots remain near all-time lows.
COVID-19 activity across the state is at a historic low point lately and that, combined with weeks and weeks of declining demand as it was, has sapped enthusiasm for new immunizations.
After hosting a vaccine clinic at East Noble Middle School on Monday afternoon that served dozens in Kendallville, Noble County saw its first-time vaccine recipient numbers tick up to 182 people this past week, up from 134 people vaccinated the week before.
The one-week boost shows that there is still some limited demand for vaccines, and that bringing vaccines closer to people who still need them may be helpful to drum up additional arms. The Noble County Health Department is planning a similar traveling clinic in Ligonier on July 12, with hopes that more of the local population will show up, including West Noble students.
Noble County's effort helped the four-county area have a slight overall increase in new vaccinations this past week to 466 people from 431 a week ago. The increase occurred despite the other three counties, all three of which had the same or lower vaccine numbers compared to a week ago.
DeKalb County dropped to 146 people vaccinated from 155 the week before, LaGrange was unchanged week to week with just 45 recipients, and Steuben County fell slightly to 93 from 97 a week ago.
Indiana overall, however, was up slightly, with just over 35,000 first-times coming in the door, up from about 33,400 last week. That's still the second-lowest one-week total in history and a far cry from the more than 227,000 people who were being vaccinated in a one-week span during mid-April.
Vaccine demand has been in steady decline since all Hoosiers age 16 and up became eligible in early April. After about a two-week surge of younger people getting their shots along with all of the older populations who became eligible earlier in the year, new shots have been in steady decline almost every week since.
Demand has dropped to low levels but Indiana still has a long way to go.
Only 48.6% of eligible Hoosiers 12 years old and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which leaves Indiana as one of the lagging states in the union.
In his newest executive order issued June 30, Gov. Eric Holcomb noted that Indiana's vaccination rate places it 38th among the 50 states, while also noting that 98% of all new cases of COVID-19 are occurring among unvaccinated Hoosiers.
The vaccines remain highly effective, with the state still seeing fewer than 0.1% "breakthrough" cases — cases detected in someone who has completed a full vaccine regimen — among the state's approximately 2.83 million vaccinated.
The state has seen just 125 hospitalizations and 41 deaths among vaccinated people over the past six months, with 38 of those 41 deaths being people older than 65. Health officials have previously noted that the elderly are more likely to experience breakthrough cases as their immune systems may not always be strong enough to mount an adequate response even with help from the vaccine.
The 41 deaths represent a breakthrough date rate of just 0.001% of all vaccinated Hoosiers.
By comparison, all-time, the death rate among Hoosiers known to have COVID-19 due to a positive test is 1.78%, significantly higher for older populations and significantly lower for younger people.
Indiana's death rate has dropped substantially primarily because older Hoosiers are the most highly vaccinated. Vaccine rates for those older than 65 is above 75% and, as the vaccines provide extremely good protection against infection and death, Indiana has seen most daily deaths from COVID-19 evaporate in 2021.
Vaccine rates remain below 40%, however, for people younger than 40, with only about 1-in-3 people age 16-39 being fully vaccinated.
As older people have been vaccinated and therefore protected from severe illness and death, Indiana has seen the proportion of new deaths still occurring skew younger, with a higher percentage of those new deaths coming among people in their 40s and 50s.
Locally, all four counties continue to lag the statewide full-vaccination rate.
Steuben County is the closest currently at 43.7%, followed by DeKalb County at 40% and Noble County more than 10 percentage points behind the state at at 35.7%.
LaGrange County, which remains the least-vaccinated county among Indiana's 92, sits at 22.9% less than half of the statewide average.
The counties that are most highly vaccinated in Indiana currently are located primarily in urban and suburban areas — northwest Indiana, Fort Wayne, university counties around Purdue and Indiana universities, the Indianapolis metro and the Evansville metro down south — while most rural counties lag the state as a whole.