INDIANAPOLIS — As vaccination rates decline nationwide, Indiana is falling behind when it comes to vaccinating young Hoosiers.
According to the state’s vaccine dashboard, only 28% of Indiana residents age 20-29 are fully vaccinated at this point. That is a 5% difference compared to the same age range in Ohio, where 32% of residents age 20-29 are fully vaccinated.
“I don’t think it is unexpected to see the lower rates in the younger population,” said Dr. Shaun Grannis, VP for data and analytics at Regenstrief Institute. “Not surprising but certainly hope that that pattern changes.”
Dr. Grannis said younger populations were not as disproportionately impacted by the initial waves of the pandemic and did not have the same experience as older populations.
“We saw very rapid uptake [in vaccines] in the older populations because they experienced the risk, they experienced those outcomes, and I think they saw the value of immunizations immediately,” said Dr. Grannis.
Dr. Grannis also said young people do not seek out health care as much as older people do because they are generally healthy and think nothing can harm them. However, he warns that may not always be the case.
“As the older population gets vaccinated, where can the disease spread? It will spread now more among the younger people, and so I think there’s good reason to continue to get the message out that people should be vaccinated.”
And that is exactly what health officials at the Marion County Health Department plan to do.
“We need to encourage vaccinations among this population, and because of that, in a few days, we’re going to be launching a digital ad campaign,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Health Department.
Dr. Caine said the new campaign will launch this Saturday with a focus on encouraging Hoosiers between the ages of 18-39 to get vaccinated.
“We really need to get this particular group. They’re lagging behind significantly,” said Dr. Caine. “Our 20 to 39-year-olds, they make up more than 43% of our new cases.”
The new campaign will consist of a series of targeted Google ads, social media posts and digital billboards. Dr. Caine said there will even be an increase in incentives beginning this Saturday during a pop-up clinic at Arsenal Tech High School.
“Somebody’s going to come away with a $250 gift card from Simon Mall, and we got some other prizes too,” said Dr. Caine.
The health department said those other incentives could be gift cards for food and gas, or even Indianapolis Colts tickets.
“We still have a tremendous amount of education that we got to get out to them,” said Dr. Caine. “They’re unaware that they can spread an infection to somebody else without having any symptoms.”
To find a vaccination clinic near you, visit https://ourshot.in.gov or call 211 if you do not have access to a computer or require assistance.
“You may not get sick, but you can unknowingly spread the infection to a loved one,” Dr. Caine said. “And no person of that age wants to know that they might have been responsible for that when they could’ve gotten vaccinated.”