Local health officials urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated

Josh Collins administers a second Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to 19-year-old Nick Chamberlin of Greenwood on Monday at Compass Park in Franklin. Scott Roberson | Daily Journal
Josh Collins administers a second Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to 19-year-old Nick Chamberlin of Greenwood on Monday at Compass Park in Franklin. Scott Roberson | Daily Journal

With growing proof that COVID-19 vaccines are effective, local health officials are urging skeptical residents to get off the fence.

Vaccinations in Johnson County are slowly increasing among all age groups, but just 42.6% of residents — about 56,600 — are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Indiana Department of Health. Nearly 63,000 county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, data shows.

Across the state, 2.4 million are fully vaccinated and more than 5 million total doses have been administered, according to state data.

Data is compelling

One of the most compelling reasons to get vaccinated is how effective the vaccine is at preventing severe infection, said Dr. Craig Moorman, county health officer.

“Of all the positive cases in Indiana, 99.3% of them are unvaccinated people, and that’s since January,” Moorman said.

The chances of fully vaccinated individuals being hospitalized with COVID-19 is one in 50,000, while it is one in 5,000 for unvaccinated individuals, according to the latest data from IDH.

Pfizer’s clinical trial showed its vaccine to be 100% effective at preventing severe infection in 12 to 15 year olds, which offers some hope for a normal school year if parents allow their children to be vaccinated.

Nearly two weeks after they became eligible, 9.8% of 12- to 15-year-old Hoosiers have stepped up with their parent’s permission to get their first dose. In the month since they became eligible, 26.7% of 16 to 19 year olds, 29.8% of 20 to 24 year olds and 26.9% of 25 to 29 year olds have received a dose of the vaccine.

No discrimination

COVID-19 infections are becoming more unpredictable and, in some cases, more severe among even healthy young people.

Dr. Christopher Zietlow, hospitalist at Johnson Memorial Hospital, has watched the evolution of cases with concern, as the disease caused by the virus is now capable of producing severe outcomes in people of all ages, not just those 65 and older or individuals who have comorbidities.

“It used to be the elderly, but now we are seeing middle-aged to even younger patients come in with severe, prolonged, protracted symptoms and illnesses,” Zietlow said.

“When they leave the hospital, they are not even close to what they were before COVID. There are a lot of long-term and long-hauler symptoms they come away with.”

Of course not every case is severe and not every case becomes a long-term battle. However, the only way to avoid a severe outcome is to get vaccinated, he said.

“That is the only thing that is going to be truly effective at this point,” Zietlow said.

Health officials also ask people who have had COVID-19 to get the vaccine, as the additional immunity the vaccine may offer will increase their protection from the virus. Previously, people who had the virus were asked to wait before getting a vaccine, but further evidence shows people can get a vaccine anytime after their acute symptoms subside, Moorman said.

Slow and steady

Multiple patients are admitted week after week with severe symptoms. The number, for the last few months, has been slow and steady and manageable, said Dr. David Dunkle, president and CEO of Johnson Memorial Health.

“We are not out of the woods. We have to get people vaccinated and move that vaccine,” Dunkle said.

Now, local health officials are working on ways to get the vaccine to more people and spread the word about effectiveness.

Soon, Johnson Memorial will offer the vaccine at its physician offices, Dunkle said. Meanwhile, the health department is looking at holding clinics at summer events such as the Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair, said Betsy Swearingen, health department director.

Those who are still on the fence can refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, which is intended to incentivize more people to get the vaccine and serve as further proof of its effectiveness, Moorman said.

The guidance says fully vaccinated people can go without a mask in most scenarios aside from a few places such as hospitals and schools, where masks are still required.

Most local businesses and government buildings have done away with mask mandates or changed signage to reflect the guidance by asking those who haven’t been vaccinated to mask up.

Local lull continues

Right now, vaccinations at the health department’s Compass Park site have slowed to a steady pace.

Local health officials hope to pick up steam close to the end of summer, when adolescents and teens are heading back to school, Swearingen said. The clinic is still seeing more adults than children though many adolescents are now eligible, she said.

“As more and more kids come to get it and more and more kids and their parents see that it is safe and that it keeps them in school and in activities, I’m hoping that will help bump the numbers up,” Swearingen said.

Between 60 and 100 are scheduled to be vaccinated most days. But the number of actual vaccinations is lower because there are still many canceled or no-show appointments, she said.

Getting a vaccine is easier than ever, as there are at least six sites in the county where the vaccine is available on a walk-in basis. Those sites include Compass Park, Johnson Memorial Hospital, Community Hospital South, Franciscan Health — Indianapolis, Windrose Health in Edinburgh and Adult and Child’s Franklin primary care clinic.

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Here is a look at how many people are vaccinated:

Fully vaccinated

Johnson County: 56,611; 42.6%

Indiana: 2.5 million, 41.7%

United States: 130.6 million, 39.3%

Partially vaccinated

Johnson County: 62,971, 47.4%

Indiana: 2.4 million, 44.5%

United States: 163.9 million, 49.4%

Sources: Indiana Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Here is a look at how those who are eligible can get a vaccine:

Register for the following sites online at ourshot.in.gov, by calling 211 or any Johnson County Public Library branch:

Johnson Memorial Hospital

When: Vaccines available 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturdays.

Where: 1125 W Jefferson St, Franklin. Parking in Blue Lot H.

Type: Pfizer.

Walk-in: Available

Compass Park

When: Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon.

Where: Event Center, 690 State Street, Franklin.

Type: Moderna, limited doses of Pfizer.

Walk-in: Available

Adult and Child Health Franklin

When: Vaccines available noon to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Where: 1860 Northwood Plaza, Franklin

Type: Moderna.

Walk-in: Available

Windrose Health Edinburgh

When: Vaccines available 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Where: 911 E. Main Cross Street, Edinburgh

Type: Multiple.

Walk-in: Available

Community Health Annex South

When: Vaccines available Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: 1346 East County Line Road, Indianapolis. Drive-thru clinic.

Type: Pfizer.

Walk-in: Available

Franciscan Health Indianapolis

When: Vaccines available Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: 8111 S Emerson Ave, Indianapolis.

Type: Pfizer.

Walk-in: Available

Walmart and Sam’s Club Pharmacies

Where: All Walmart stores in Johnson County; Sams Club at 1101 Windhorst Way, Greenwood.

Type: Federal Retail Pharmacy, type may vary.

Appoints for the following sites are made with the pharmacy, vaccine type may vary:

Kroger Pharmacies

Where: All Kroger stores in Johnson County.

Registration: kroger.com/rx/covid-eligibility or call 866-211-5320

Meijer Pharmacies

Where: Both Meijer locations in Johnson County.

Registration: Text COVID to 75049, visit clinic.meijer.com/register.

Walgreens Pharmacies

Where: All Walgreens locations in Johnson County.

Registration: walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19

CVS Pharmacies

Where: All CVS locations in Johnson County.

Registration: cvs.com/vaccine/intake/store/covid-screener/covid-qns

Costco Pharmacy

Where: 4628 E. County Line Rd, Indianapolis.

Registration: costco.com/covid-vaccine.html

Source: Indiana Department of Health