INDIANAPOLIS — The number of first-time recipients taking COVID-19 vaccines dropped again this past week, to its third-lowest weekly total ever.

That trend carried through in the local area, too, where new vaccine uptake dropped compared to the week previous.

More than half of the eligible population in the four-county area remains unvaccinated, so there’s plenty of opportunity just not many takers.

For the week ended Friday, Indiana saw 32,621 Hoosiers step forward to get the first dose of either a two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

That’s down from about 35,000 last week and the third-lowest weekly total of all time, ahead of two weeks in early July when first-time vaccines dropped below 30,000 first timers.

Locally, 405 residents in Noble, DeKalb, LaGrange and Steuben counties came in for shots, down from 554 people the week prior.

Noble County led with 133 shots given, followed by DeKalb County at 125, Steuben County at 88 and LaGrange County at 59.

Statewide, 56.8% of eligible Hoosiers age 12 and older are fully vaccinated, but rates remain significantly lower in the four-county area.

Steuben County is just shy of 47%, trailed by DeKalb County at 43.25%, Noble County at 41.9% and LaGrange last in the state at 25.4%.

Indiana’s most highly vaccinated areas remain around suburban Indianapolis, northwest Indiana, northern Allen County, college communities in West Lafayette and Bloomington and the Evansville metro.

Rural areas of the state are, on average, far less vaccinated, with northern Indiana worse than southern Indiana.

COVID-19 has let up some across Indiana, as the delta variant-driven surge that started in July appears to have peaked.

Cases have dropped to about 3,000 per week after peaking at over 4,000 per week earlier this month, while hospitalizations have come down from a high near 2,700 to about 2,400 total patients are in care recently.

Deaths, a lagging indicator that takes longer to change directions after other metrics, still remain high, with Indiana averaging about 40 deaths per day over the last week.

Vaccination rates have stalled since July. After the state went from 0% of its total population to about 40% by the end of June, the state has seen just a 7 percentage point increase in its vaccination over the past three months, even despite Indiana going through another major surge in activity brought on by the delta variant.

This week, the Indiana Department of Health announced that booster shots were now authorized for certain high-risk people who previously received a Pfizer vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending Pfizer booster shots for certain high risks groups including people over 65 years of age and people over 50 with medical conditions that would make them higher risk.

Boosters are available to other age groups without elevated risk factors, although the health department says those people “may” get shots as opposed to the higher-risk populations that “should” seek a booster.

The Pfizer boosters are only for people who previously received Pfizer shots, which may exclude most of the local population as Moderna vaccines were more commonly distributed by health department clinics in northeast Indiana during the vaccine blitz earlier this year.

Some scientific groups are currently testing the safety and efficacy of mixed-brand vaccine use — for example, getting a booster of Pfizer if you had previously received two doses of Moderna — but such cross-use has not yet been approved.

Although the state has seen more breakthrough cases of COVID-19, the vast majority of serious cases involving hospitalization and death are still primarily being suffered by unvaccinated Hoosiers.

The surge in new cases over the past three months have led to many more Hoosiers, about 194,000 since July 1, contracting the virus and thereby picking up natural immunity.

Vaccines are still recommended even for people who previously contracted the virus, as studies have shown the shots lead to a big boost in antibodies and greater protection against reinfection in the future.
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