INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana's top doctors updated reporters on all things COVID-19 Wednesday – from rising hospitalization numbers to what it will take to get to herd immunity.
It was the first briefing in about a month, and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box wanted to both warn and encourage Hoosiers.
About 1.8 million Hoosiers are fully vaccinated – or 33% of the eligible population, Box said. But the goal for the state is to get well over 60% to feel safe for the future.
And Box warned that variant strains of the virus are increasing. Indiana is sampling a small amount of positive cases and almost 32% are those newer strains. She expects another large spike in the fall – another reason to get vaccinated.
Box also noted a 50% increase in hospitalizations from late March, but she acknowledged the state is still significantly lower than its record highs in November.
“Hoosiers, COVID is still here and it is not going away anytime soon,” she said.
The Indiana Department of Health also updated the weekly county map. The state has just seven orange counties – red is the highest – and four of them are in northeast Indiana. They include Steuben, DeKalb, LaGrange and Whitley counties. Elkhart, in northern Indiana, is also orange.
Box said Michigan has had a high proportion of B117 cases, a more transmissible variant. She said the virus doesn't respect state lines and believes that is contributing to the growth.
Allen County remained in the yellow – blue is best. The county reported 76 new cases and one new death.
Dr. Lindsay Weaver, who is heading up Indiana's vaccination effort, said the vaccine is working for those getting it. She said the vast majority of new cases are those who have not been vaccinated. Only 2.5% are breakthrough cases since March and usually occur in someone who is older or who had an initial vaccination several months ago.
In all, only 0.04% of those fully vaccinated have gotten COVID-19 in Indiana.
Weaver acknowledged there is still work to do. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana ranks 45th in the percentage of population vaccinated.
“Every vaccine is a win,” Weaver said, noting they are starting to push out to places where people feel comfortable, such as employers, community centers, churches and more. And they are working to reduce barriers so primary care physicians may provide the vaccine.
She said many doctor's offices don't have the cold storage needed for some vaccines. And she noted they are shipped in bulk. One vial can hold five to 14 doses depending on the manufacturer and a doctor's office might only need a few doses a day, leading to waste.
Box said about 20% of those not vaccinated are solidly anti-vaccine. But she said there is an additional 20% to 30% who are more ambivalent and haven't made time. That is the population the state is working to reach.
The Allen County Department of Health will begin accepting walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccination appointments Friday.
Anyone eligible for the vaccine can go to Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave., during designated times to receive a shot.
The designated walk-in times are:
• Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
• Thursdays from 2 to 5:30 p.m.
• Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m.
• Saturdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Appointments are still encouraged and will be prioritized, so individuals walking in should be prepared to wait.
At a glance
Fully vaccinated residents by county
Adams: 7,626 (29.7%)
Allen: 96,082 (32.8%)
DeKalb: 9,208 (26.9%)
Huntington: 9,896 (33.5%)
Kosciusko: 16,459 (26.2%)
LaGrange: 5,526 (19.5%)
Noble: 9,687 (25.9%)
Steuben: 10,248 (36%)
Wabash: 7,465 (29.4%)
Wells: 6,495 (29.3%)
Whitley: 8,598 (31.7%)
Source: Indiana Department of Health