The last thing any Hoosier wants to see is another surge of COVID-19 cases in Indiana.
It should not happen, but it could.
Momentum had been building toward turning the corner on the pandemic, which has entered its second year. And that corner is close. Vaccines are proving effective in keeping people from developing life-threatening cases of coronavirus, and from spreading it to others. Among recently hospitalized Hoosiers, only 2.5% got infected after being vaccinated, Indiana Department of Health officials explained in a news conference Wednesday.
The vaccines’ efficacy is the good news. Likewise, it is encouraging to see hospitalizations and deaths from the virus decreasing nationwide. The bad news is that Indiana lags the nation in vaccinating its population.
NEARLY 1.8 MILLION residents are now fully vaccinated against the infectious disease. That amounts to about one-third of Indiana’s adult population. Conversely, two-thirds of Hoosiers ages 16 and older are not fully vaccinated. Some Indiana counties’ rates top 46%, including Ohio and Warrick, as well as the affluent Indianapolis rim counties of Hendricks, Boone and Hamilton.
Indiana ranks 45th in the U.S. in percentage of the population fully vaccinated, according to Friday’s numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state is ahead of only five Southern states and Utah.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box and IDOH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver conducted the update to share the latest statistics and more importantly to implore Indiana residents to roll up their sleeves.
Box issued “a plea and an ask that you help everyone that you know — your family, your friends and your community — to get out there and get vaccinated.”
Federal public health experts expressed optimism last week that the U.S. could see COVID-19 fade, if the vaccinations continue. They also acknowledged the virus could reemerge and surge, as it did through the brutal fall and winter of 2020, in areas with lots of unvaccinated residents. Indiana does not need to be in that position. Vaccines are readily available and have proven safe. A pause on the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been lifted, after concerning but extremely rare cases of blood clots. The Moderna and Pfizer two-dose vaccines have had only mild side effects.
Vaccination rates among Hoosiers over age 60 are high and range from 55.2% for those 60-64 to 74.9% for 70- to 74-year-olds. Rates for residents younger than 40 are less than half of those for their elders. Indiana’s under-40 population includes two groups most reluctant to get vaccinated, Black and conservative Hoosiers, as Brian Dixon — director of Indianapolis research center the Regenstrief Institute — told Indiana Public Media this week. Together, they comprise a significant portion of the state’s overall population.
Youth does not equal invincibility. New infections are increasing among 20- and 30-somethings in Indiana.
DOCTOR WEAVER REFUTED common rationalizations for avoiding vaccinations.
“Some of the reasons we hear are, ‘I’ve had COVID and I don’t need a vaccine.’ This isn’t true, because we still don’t know how long the antibodies from COVID last,” Weaver said in Wednesday’s news update. “We also hear people say, ‘I’m perfectly healthy.’ This is a false sense of security — even perfectly healthy people get COVID and it can have severe outcomes. We also, lastly, hear, ‘I don’t trust the vaccine and more research is needed.’ To that, I say that all three vaccines have been shown to be extremely safe and effective.”
The coveted herd immunity — a form of indirect protection from disease once a significant portion of the population has immunity from infection — could be reached this year, Weaver said. Or, cases could spike again. The number of Hoosiers vaccinated will determine which way the state goes.
”I don’t want people to have to learn their lesson, or learn their lesson from seeing a family member get sick,” Weaver said.
Encourage friends, family, coworkers, fellow church members and anyone else to get vaccinated this month. They can go online to ourshot.in.gov or phone 211. We all want normalcy, so let us not drag this out. Get vaccinated.
Tribune-Star, Terre Haute