clinic work

Jason Armey of the Steuben County Health Department assembles a partition for use in the observation area of the new COVID-19 vaccine clinic being assembled in the Steuben Community Center, 317 S. Wayne St., Angola. The new clinic will open on Tuesday after the Health Department vacated the vaccine site at the Steuben County Event Center at Crooked Lake.

INDIANAPOLIS — Vaccine demand both locally and across the state continued to fade this week, but numbers may see a boost next week as adolescents 12-15 years old can start receiving vaccines.

But prior to the state opening vaccines to those youngsters Thursday, Indiana has continued to see declining vaccination numbers, as the state has served most of the people who were eager to get their shots.

The remainder — more than half of the state population and even higher percentages locally — will need to be reached through more- deliberate efforts throughout the coming months.

The drop in vaccines locally far outpaced the state, which still saw some decrease but not as severe as past week at just a 5% drop from the week prior.

Whitley County currently has 36.7% of its population vaccinated — relatively average compared to surrounding counties. Steuben, Allen and Huntington Counties have crossed the 39% mark, while others, such as Kosciusko, Elkhart, Noble, LaGrange and DeKalb counties are all below 34%, with LaGrange as low as 20.4%.

Whitley County has had an average of 113 new vaccinations per day for the past week, down from as high as 160 earlier this month.

Other counties in the local area saw fewer than 300 first-time recipients this week, with DeKalb County at 281, Noble County with 258, Steuben County at 175 and LaGrange County at just 10.

LaGrange County remains last among Indiana’s 92 counties in vaccination rate, with only 21.6% of residents who have received a vaccine.

After hitting highs of nearly 56,000 vaccines going out per day in early April, vaccine distribution has tumbled to less than 31,000 per day, with only about 10,000 of those doses going to first-time recipients.

The state may see a small uptick in first-timer vaccines over the next week or two, since federal regulators just approved use of Pfizer vaccines for people age 12-15 this week.

Indiana opened registrations for that age group on Thursday morning and has started shipping additional Pfizer vaccines across the state, including to counties that previously never had it before including LaGrange, Noble and DeKalb.

While some families may line up to get their teens and tweens vaccinated, so far uptake among younger age groups has been fairly low.

More than a month out since all Hoosiers age 16 and up became eligible to receive vaccines, fewer than 20% of people younger than 30 have been fully vaccinated, including only 15% of teens age 16-19.

Although younger people face significantly lower risk of severe illness or death, verging on near-zero percentages for the very young, health officials still are advising everyone to get vaccinated as a way not only to protect populations that can’t get vaccinated — or populations who simply won’t — but because wider immunity also helps prevent the virus from finding more ground to duplicate and possibly mutate into new variants that could be more dangerous or circumvent current vaccine formulas.

Current variants of the COVID-19 virus already have shown to be more infectious and slightly more dangerous, with higher rates of hospitalization and serious illness among younger populations, such as with the B 1.1.7. U.K. variant of the virus that is still hitting Michigan hard, although numbers have come down some in recent days.

Because of the addition of the new 12-15-year-olds into the eligible population, the percentage of eligible residents who are fully vaccinated has dropped since last week, because the total number of eligible people has grown, and those newly included people haven’t had long enough to start getting vaccinated.

Locally, Steuben County has fully vaccinated just about 40% of the eligible population 12 and older, sitting at 39.58% to lead the northeast corner. DeKalb County ranks second locally at 31.75%, followed by Noble County at 29.01%.

LaGrange County, at just 20.1% overall, ranks worst in the state, with a map released by the Indiana State Department of Health earlier this week showing western LaGrange County, which is most heavily Amish, sits at rates below 15%.

Indiana as a whole has passed 2.25 million Hoosiers who are now fully vaccinated, representing 39.6% of the total population age 12 and older.

Area residents interested in getting a vaccine can sign up at ourshot.in.gov or call 211 for assistance.

Vaccine clinics are also taking walk-in appointments, although pre-registration is preferred in order to speed up the sign-in process.

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