INDIANAPOLIS–Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine set a goal of “50 by the Fourth” to vaccinate half of all county residents against the COVID-19 virus.
With less than two weeks to go, the ambitious benchmark looks unattainable.
“We’re at the 39% mark of being fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Caine during a morning briefing with reporters. “We still got two more weeks and we’re trying to knock it out of the park with our vaccinations and looking at our other metrics too, when we see our hospitalizations and ER visits almost go off the charts.”
While the vaccination rate climbed only one percent in the last week, the daily COVID-19 infection rate has dropped to 2.4%, less than half of what Dr. Caine calls her “Gold Standard”, and deaths are less than one per day, emergency department visits are 23 per day and hospital admissions are less than six per day, all statistics that show a steady downward trend.
Dr. Caine said analysts also take into account the number of Marion County residents who have recovered from COVID-19 and their natural immunity when trying to determine the level of Indianapolis’ protection from the pandemic.
“I look at what we call the prevalence, for example, how much recent infection we have in a community that provides a natural immunity related to our community from a recent COVID-19 infection, so I look at that percentage and add it to the percentage of people who are vaccinated.
“Right now, when we’re looking at prevalence for COVID-19, we’re looking at a range between 35-39%, and if I look at the number of vaccinations at 50%, if my prevalence is around 38, I don’t have to reach necessarily a 50% vaccination.”
Dr. Caine said she is not yet ready to relax pandemic restrictions in Marion County despite the trends.
Last month, Marion County vaccinated 125,000 people, yet 50,000 were not county residents.
Several surrounding counties have topped 50% vaccination rates.
In Marion County, less than one in four residents under the age of 20 have been vaccinated.
“I know that some of the parents in our city are still hesitant about giving their children the vaccine and I know to many it feels like a risk,” said Dr. Caine, “but I can tell you with certainty, it is far more of a risk to leave your child unprotected in the face of this deadly virus than to give them a vaccine that has been rigorously tested and studied that has now been safely administered to millions of people.”
Dr. Caine express her concern over the Delta variant strain of the virus which has infect 99 Hoosiers.
“We are seeing the proportion of the delta variant on the increase, that’s certainly happening around the country as well as here in central Indiana,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, VP of Medical Affairs for Franciscan Alliance. “I’d be really surprised if it exploded in any communitywide way, the problem is people who are not yet protected from a vaccine or from natural immunity are susceptible to that variant and it does spread at a higher rate than some of the previous variants that we had.”
Dr. Doehring said the intrusion of the Delta variant is another reason why all Hoosiers, especially children, need to be vaccinated.
“I think the big concern amongst those under twenty whether it’s the Delta variant or any other strain of the virus, is that they are conduits for spreading it, they’re the vectors that other more vulnerable people can get exposed through,” he said. “The vaccine protection seems really strong against this variant.”