INDIANAPOLIS — The number of Hoosiers seeking COVID-19 vaccinations hit another new low this past week, returning to a familiar decline after a one-week blip up.
After vaccine numbers rose slightly last week both locally and statewide — the first and only time that’s happened since a mid-April peak excluding the first week Hoosiers 12-15 became eligible — uptake returned to its week-to-week decreases this week.
The decreases continue not for a lack of available unvaccinated people — more than half of eligible Hoosiers are still yet to become fully vaccinated — but simple as a result of waning demand.
Indiana stands no realistic chance of hitting a 70% vaccination rate by July 4, a goal set by President Joe Biden for the nation. Indiana continues to linger in the bottom quartile of states for vaccination rate, sharing company with the Deep South and other red states that comprise the least-vaccinated places in the nation.
This past week, the four-county area saw just 500 new people show up to get a first vaccine, the lowest one-week total to date, dropping below the previous low of 581 in one week for the week ended June 4.
Indiana’s overall numbers dropped similarly this past week to 38,980 first-timers coming for a vaccine, also a new record low for the state.
Off peak, each of the four counties has seen incoming vaccine recipients drop about 90% — 86% in Noble County, 88% in DeKalb County, 90% in Steuben County and 91% in LaGrange County. Indiana’s statewide demand has dropped about 83% off its peak.
Few Hoosiers are coming in for shots although there are more people in Indiana who haven’t completed a vaccine regimen compared to those who have.
Overall, 47.8% of Hoosiers age 12 and older are now fully vaccinated.
Uptake rates are significantly lower in northeast Indiana as in most rural areas across the state. In Steuben County, 42.7% of residents are fully vaccinated, with rates worse in DeKalb County at 38.8%, 34.6% in Noble County and a state-worst 22.5% in LaGrange County.
Fewer than 12% of residents in Topeka area in LaGrange County are fully vaccinated, the lowest among hundreds of ZIP codes in Indiana. The second-lowest is just north of there at 12.5% in the Shipshewana region, with both areas being heavily Amish.
COVID-19 activity has bottomed out so far this month, with Indiana seeing its lowest case, hospitalization and death numbers so far in the pandemic.
Seasonality may be a factor right now — coronavirus activity dropped sharply in summer 2020 before roaring back in fall and winter — but activity has also been in long-term decline as vaccination rates have crept up.
Even with less than half of the state fully vaccinated, Indiana is now seeing fewer than 400 cases of COVID-19 per day and about eight deaths per day, significant drops from averages of about 5,500 cases and 80 deaths per day in December 2020.
Sharp decreases in mortality are likely attributable to high vaccination rates among older Hoosiers, who are most at risk of serious illness or death from the virus. Vaccination rates are over 75% for those 65 and older and 66% for those 60-65. Those age groups accounted for 9-in-10 deaths from COVID-19 during the pandemic.
Analysis has shown that COVID-19 has been almost completely wiped out among vaccinated populations — there have been about 2,000 breakthrough cases representing less than 0.1% of all vaccinated individuals — meanwhile the virus continues to circulate among unvaccinated populations, mostly the young.
Although the virus typically poses little mortal threat to younger populations, health officials have continued to advocate for all people to get vaccinated as a method to prevent further mutation of the virus into new strains that may be more virulent or more deadly than currently sequenced viruses or morph into something that might circumvent current vaccine formulas and put everyone at risk once again.
Based on the ongoing decline in new vaccinations, that message appears to be falling on mostly deaf ears.
Vaccination rates remain below 40% for Hoosiers under 40 and under 50% for those in their 40s.