The number of vaccines being distributed to first-time recipients across Indiana has been increasing slightly of late, coinciding with increasing COVID-19 activity across the state. Steve Garbacz screenshot
The number of vaccines being distributed to first-time recipients across Indiana has been increasing slightly of late, coinciding with increasing COVID-19 activity across the state. Steve Garbacz screenshot
The local picture is unclear this week, due to an update to the state’s vaccine dashboard that fixed an error concerning what counties vaccinated people were credited to. More on that in a bit.

COVID-19 activity continues to rise across Indiana — there were more than 2,000 cases reported Friday, the first time counts topped that mark since early February — and the rise in cases continues to drive more people toward immunizations.

Statewide, just shy of 47,000 first-timers got a vaccine over the past seven days, an increase from about 42,700 last week. Weekly first-time recipients have been climbing after bottoming out in the first week of July.

First-time vaccine numbers were 23,677 for the week ended July 9, but rose to 29,023 the next week, 35,359 the week after, 42,702 last week and now 46,992 this week.

Those weekly numbers are nowhere close to the vaccines being doled out in the spring, when the state logged an all-time high of 227,024 first shots given out the week ended April 16. But the four-straight weeks of increases are the first time uptake has been up outside of weeks when new age groups first became eligible.

As for the local picture over the last week, it’s impossible to tell because the state fixed an error in how some recipients were being assigned to counties.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box had forecast that the update was coming to address an issue with county of residence assignments. Prior to the fix, some people living in ZIP codes that overlap two counties were only being assigned to one of those counties, regardless of whether they lived on the other side of the line.

That had the impact of giving some counties slightly larger counts while shorting other counties, Box said. The issue has now been fixed so that county of residence will be assigned by an actual address instead of just a static ZIP code assignment.

With that change made, DeKalb and Steuben counties were among two of the losers, as both had their overall vaccine numbers drop compared to a week ago.

DeKalb County lost 472 off its total count compared to a week ago, while Steuben County’s total is now down 177 people compared to last week.

Noble and LaGrange counties, on the other hand, appeared to benefit from the change. Noble County’s total vaccine count is up 565 compared to a week ago — unusually larger than recent weekly increases in its full vaccination numbers indicating it picked up more people due to the data fix — while LaGrange County had 182 more people added to its total.

The one-time changes make it impossible to get an accurate week-to-week comparison for counties this week, but trend analysis will be able to resume next week as all counties will now be on the same reporting methodology.

The changes in totals have also had minor impacts on each county’s total vaccination percentage, although only by small amounts.

What hasn’t changed is that all four counties in the northeast corner still lag the statewide vaccine rate significantly.

Indiana’s full vaccination rate continues to inch up, now at 52.1% of the total eligible population age 12 and older. More than 2.97 million Hoosiers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Steuben County is still closest, although falling behind at an increasing rate every week, at 44.1%. DeKalb County remains second in the region at 39.9% vaccinated, now followed more closely by Noble County at 38.6%.

LaGrange County, despite picking up a hundred-plus people toward its total, still remains firmly in last place among Indiana’s 92 counties at only 24.1% vaccination rate.

LaGrange County is the only county under 30% vaccination rate in the state, making it far and away Indiana’s least-protected county. The next-worst county in the state is Switzerland County in the far southeast corner of the state, at 32.3% vaccination rate.

Indiana is still in the middle of a new surge in cases that’s been taking place over about the past month as the delta variant of COVID-19 has arrived and started circulating rapidly throughout the state.

Indiana logged more than 2,000 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the first time the state has topped that mark since early February. Over the last two weeks, daily case counts have increased every day.

Hospitalizations continue to rise, topping 1,000 patients admitted to facilities as of Friday. Outside of a small uptick in late April and early May, the current hospital census is the highest it’s been since February, when Indiana was on the sharp slide down as vaccine distribution reached the state’s most vulnerable and helped rapidly slash the rate of serious illness among the state’s oldest residents.

And statewide deaths, which been in long-term decline and had almost reached the point of being eradicated, have also started to rise again. Over the past week, Indiana has averaged almost seven deaths per day after having been as low as two per day average as recently as two weeks ago.

Vaccines have been highly effective at reducing infection, severe illness and death, although the infectiousness of the delta variant has been pushing even vaccinated people and causing more breakthrough cases.

Still, about 98% of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 since January have been among unvaccinated Hoosiers. Only about 0.18% of the 2.97 million vaccinated Hoosiers have experienced a breakthrough case to date.

For vaccinated people who do end up contracting the virus even after their shots — an occurrence that is more common among older people who have weaker immune systems than younger people — the infection is generally milder compared to cases in people who are not vaccinated.

Of the approximately 5,300 breakthrough cases reported in Indiana, only about 3.5% have resulted in a hospitalization, which is less than half the statewide historical hospitalization rate of 8.1%.

COVID-19 vaccines remain widely available, offered by county health departments, at local pharmacies or through many primary care physician offices.

© 2022 KPCNews, Kendallville, IN.