INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s rate of COVID-19 vaccination shots has remained sluggish in recent weeks while coronavirus-related hospitalizations have slowly climbed to their highest number since February.
State health department statistics updated Wednesday show that about 2 million people have been fully vaccinated in Indiana, or about 37% of residents ages 16 and older.
Indiana’s vaccination rate has remained at about 40,000 people a day over the past three weeks. That is down from the state’s peak of more than 50,000 a day in early April.
Health officials have said they are worried about increased risk from more contagious coronavirus variants at a time when so many people aren’t immunized.
“The more people who are vaccinated in our community, the less likely we are to see outbreaks and the need for a retightening of restrictions to slow the spread,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, the Marion County health department director. “The COVID-19 vaccine, it is our route to freedom and more safety.”
The state health department’s weekly tracking map updated Wednesday showed four of the five Indiana counties that border Michigan continue to show moderate risk of COVID-19 spread.
Those counties have orange risk ratings — the second highest of the four ratings. One other northern Indiana county has an orange rating while most others have the next-highest yellow rating. Indiana officials have been watching those northern counties because Michigan continues to have the country’s highest infection rate.
Three counties in rural southern Indiana also have orange risk ratings. None of Indiana’s 92 counties have the highest-risk red ratings.
Indiana hospitals, meanwhile, reported treating just more than 1,000 coronavirus patients as of Tuesday. That is up from about 600 patients a day in March but far below the more than 3,000 a day that were being treated through much of November and December.
The health department has added 61 coronavirus-related deaths over the past week to the state’s toll, raising the pandemic total to 13,373. Indiana’s seven-day moving average of deaths has remained at 10 or less for more than a month after averaging more than 100 a day for much of December.
Vaccination rates vary widely across the state. Four counties in suburban Indianapolis have roughly half or more of their residents 16 and older fully vaccination. But Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, is below the state average at 34% and about 20 mainly rural counties across the state have rates of 30% or lower.
Caine said her Marion County department was focusing on outreach to Blacks, Hispanics and Asians, who’ve been vaccinated at about half the rate of white Indianapolis residents. Those in their 30s and younger are also being targeted as they have vaccination rates under 20% even though shots have been available to them for several weeks.
“It’s a harder sale,” Caine said. “It’s a different age group that we have to have them understand the relevance and the importance of this in terms of only their safety but protecting their loved ones, their parents, their siblings, their best friends.”