vaccine

In this Dec. 18, 2020 file photo, Cameron Memorial Community Hospital Pharmacist John Crabill loads up a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in preparation of an inoculation at the Steuben County Vaccine Center at Crooked Lake.

INDIANAPOLIS — The number of residents in the four-county area who received new COVID-19 vaccinations dropped a bit this week compared to last week as bad weather hit the state and caused disruptions in vaccine distribution.

Still, the numbers weren’t too far off from the previous week as nearly 4,300 shots went into arms in the northeast corner.

In total, 18,719 people in the four-county area have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Within that number, 8,612 people have now received both doses of the two-shot vaccine, giving them full immunity to the virus.

Those numbers represent an increase of 1,998 first-timers, as well as 2,292 people who received their second dose since last Friday.

Numbers were down a little bit from a week ago — last week there were 2,815 first-times and 2,367 second-dose patients — representing 892 fewer doses given this week than last week.

As the region nears 19,000 people vaccinated, the four-county area now has about 11.3% of its population with at least one vaccine dose in them. The region now has 5.2% of its population fully vaccinated.

The slowdown is likely an impact of the weather — the Indiana State Department of Health announced that more than 40,000 appointments statewide had to be rescheduled at the beginning of the week due to a snowstorm that dumped inches of snow across most of the state, causing hazardous road conditions.

The wide-reaching snowstorm also caused delays in the state receiving its next shipment of Moderna vaccines — the type that are primarily being given in clinics outside of major city centers or hospitals because the Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage not available everywhere — which might have also slowed the rate of vaccine distribution this week.

Gov. Eric Holcomb reported this week that Indiana should be expecting a small increase in its weekly vaccine allotments again, which will speed up the state’s ability to expand eligibility to more people.

Johnson & Johnson is also still scheduled to have a hearing before the Food and Drug Administration later this month for emergency use approval on its vaccine, a one-dose shot that has easier storage conditions compared to Moderna or Pfizer. The introduction of a third vaccine to the market could also create a needed flood of available vaccines for communities to utilize.

Hoosiers can sign up to get vaccines by visiting ourshot.in.gov or calling 2-1-1 for assistance. Currently, people 65 years old and older as well as health care workers and first responders are the only ones eligible.

Indiana’s next step will be to allow those ages 60-64 to get vaccinated, but eligibility for those Hoosiers hasn’t opened yet. State officials said they hope to expand to this five-year age group in the coming week.

After the 60-64 group gets the green light for vaccines, Hoosiers in their 50s and people of any age with five serious comorbidities will become the next eligible group after that.

Indiana started with prioritizing its oldest residents first, since more than 93% of all deaths and about two-thirds of all hospitalizations were occurring among people age 60 and older. Hoosiers 50 and older account for 97.5% of all deaths.

Vaccine clinics in all four counties have continued operating this past week, with Steuben County at the Steuben County Event Center, DeKalb County at its fairgrounds in Auburn, Noble County at the Noble County Public Library branch in Albion and LaGrange County at the LaGrange County Public Library Branch in LaGrange. Topeka Pharmacy in LaGrange County also is offering vaccinations.

LaGrange County’s clinic is scheduled to move for the second time, heading to the gymnasium at the former Lima-Brighton Elementary School in Howe as the clinic has outgrown its space at the library. Local health officials said that move will take place by the end of the month.

The state is also vaccinating nursing home residents through a partnership with pharmacy companies CVS and Walgreens.

Local counties have changed positions again in who has vaccinated the most this week, with DeKalb, Noble and Steuben counties all posting similar numbers and LaGrange County trailing.

Steuben County has once again taken over the No. 1 spot locally, with 5,270 residents vaccinated, followed by DeKalb County at 5,256 and Noble County at 5,150. LaGrange County has vaccinated 3,043 residents so far.

Steuben County still maintains a big lead however in fully-vaccinated residents at 3,296, followed by DeKalb at 2,247, Noble with 1,855 and LaGrange at 1,214.

Steuben County’s vaccine clinic has been open for about a month longer than its neighbors as it was opened in December as a regional site for vaccinating health care workers, so it’s facility was up and running for weeks before other counties got started.

Statewide, 866,680 Hoosiers have received at least one shot, with 402,792 people fully-vaccinated.

The state has vaccinated just shy of 13% of the total population to date, which is still ahead of the four-county rate of 11.3%.

The regional, average, however, hides some disparities in local vaccination rates.

Steuben County is actually ahead of the state on a per-capita basis, with 15.2% of its population already vaccinated. DeKalb County has 12.1% and Noble County 10.8%, while LaGrange County is lagging at just 7.8% vaccination rate so far.

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