Indiana News

Hoosier hesitancy to COVID-19 vaccine still high, state health leader says

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — With some data trending in the wrong direction, the Indiana State Department of Health put pressure on Hoosiers on Wednesday to get vaccinated.

So far, 33.1% of Hoosiers 16 and older have been fully vaccinated.

Dr. Kris Box, the state health commissioner, said in a news conference Wednesday that a large group of people are “anti-vaccine” or just don’t think they need the shots. To reduce hesitancy, Box said, all mass-vaccination sites will now offer Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

For Box, feeling safe again will depend on vaccinations. “For me it’s everyone that is able to take the vaccine to take it, because I don’t want any Hoosier to perish from a disease that we have a vaccine that has this good of a result with it. You know, when we look at influenza, and I know we’ve said this before, when we hit on a good year, we got 40% to 60% coverage. This vaccine is 94% effective at preventing infection and 99% effective against preventing hospitalizations and death so my number is as close to 100% as I can get.”

Box said the number of people hospitalized across Indiana has increased by 50% and the number of daily hospital admissions has doubled since late March.

Additionally, about 1,100 Hoosiers have tested positive for a COVID-19 variant. Box said a new section will be added to the state’s dashboard to track those cases.

With those cases on the rise, box is worried for the unvaccinated population.

“When we first started talking about the b117 variant we said it’s much more transmissible, 1.5 times more transmissible. So, (it’s) easier to infect other individuals. We didn’t really think that there was increased severity of cases, but studies are showing that there probably is an increased severity in those cases.”

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer with the Department of Health, said Indiana has stepped up campaigns and is working to bring vaccines to places where people feel most comfortable such as churches or community centers. But, Weaver said, sometimes word of mouth works just as well.

“I know people at small dinner parties that have convinced other people at the dinner parties to go ahead and sign up and get vaccinated. Honestly, at this point, it’s whatever it takes. So, we’re trying to do everything we can and we’re working with our partners to see what can they also do to help increase our vaccination rates,” Weaver said.

Health officials said they’ve also heard some people are waiting until they can get the vaccine from their family doctor. The state is in the process of working with primary-care providers to make that happen. The biggest obstacle has been inadequate storage availability in some doctors’ offices.