INDIANAPOLIS — Several central Indiana hospital systems are phasing out their hospital-based COVID-19 vaccine clinics and will instead try to vaccinate more Hoosiers in physician offices.
As demand for the vaccine continues to decline and fewer Hoosiers are visiting hospitals to get the shots, I.U. Health, Johnson Memorial Health and Columbus Regional Health are among those who are changing the vaccination strategy.
“Pretty much all of our I.U. Health hospital-based vaccine clinics will be closing at the end of this month,” said I.U. Health Associate Chief Medical Executive Dr. Paul Calkins. “Some of them will extend part of the way into July. It’s really time to move on from that model to a different model for vaccination, in our opinion.”
Since reaching its peak in early April, Indiana’s daily vaccination rate has been trending downward, and that trend has been noticeable in many hospital clinics. A couple months ago, Dr. Calkins said I.U. Health hospital clinics were administering between 3,500 and 5,000 doses per day.
“Now we’re doing about 2,000 on a big day,” Calkins said.
Instead of maintaining clinics, several hospitals plan to distribute the vaccine to physician practices within their networks so that the vaccine is available for patients as they come in for appointments with their doctor.
“Those people that haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, really a lot of them want to have a conversation with their physician,” said Johnson Memorial Health President and CEO Dr. Dave Dunkle. “I think as a medical profession, we need to do a better job of getting to where the people are.”
“People have really just moved on from driving over to the hospital to get a shot,” Dr. Calkins said. “It’s time to get out there with the people where it’s more convenient.”
“You’re coming in for a normal checkup, maybe for a sore shoulder or something else. ‘Hey, would you like to get your COVID vaccine?’” Dunkle said.
Calkins and Dunkle both said wider vaccine availability is also a factor in the decision, since Hoosiers have so many other places to find the vaccine.
I.U. Health expects to close down most hospital clinics by the end of this month. Johnson Memorial stopped taking first-dose appointments last week and will finish out second-dose appointments this month. Columbus Regional Health is reducing clinic days and hours through the end of July before shifting to primary care offices.
Major Hospital in Shelby County closed its hospital clinic last week. Officials at Hancock Regional say they are currently in discussions but have not decided on a phase-out plan.
Any Hoosier interested in finding a vaccine location near them can use the Indiana State Department of Health website.