INDIANAPOLIS – Marion County is making strides but still has a long way to go when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations.
Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, said the vaccination rate was about 26% in Marion County, tracking behind a few surrounding counties like Hendricks, Hancock, and Hamilton.
Mayor Joe Hogsett appealed to local residents to get the vaccine as soon as possible, pointing out that appointments were no longer necessary in many locations.
“The reason why we get vaccinated is not just simply to protect our own health,” he said. “By getting vaccinated, you become a COVID roadblock, protecting your neighbors who may be at serious risk of illness.”
“The COVID-19 vaccine is our route to freedom,” Caine said during Wednesday news conference.
Caine discussed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the CDC called for a brief pause in administering due to a rare side effect involving blood clots. Caine believed the pause was the right decision.
Although the blood clot issue is rare, people should be aware of symptoms like severe headaches, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, etc., and contact their doctor if they’re experiencing those symptoms after getting the vaccine.
Caine pointed out that she had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as had Hogsett and City-County Council President Vop Osili. She believes the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the potential risks.
The highest vaccination rate in Marion County is among white residents with drop-offs among Black, Asian and Latin populations, Caine said.
Marion County currently has a 5.1% positivity rate for COVID-19, just above Caine’s “gold standard” of 5% or under. Newly confirmed cases have seen a slight increase since April 26, but Caine believes the numbers are plateauing and not indicative of a surge.
In addition, emergency room visits for COVID-19 saw a slight increase while hospitalizations have leveled off. Caine said, on average, there were nine admissions per day for COVID-19 patients in Marion County.
While cases are plateauing overall, Caine said the county is seeing the most cases among high school students between the ages of 14 and 17. According to Caine, preliminary information attributed the increase to spring break activities. She also conceded that having students return to school after spring break may have resulted in spreading the coronavirus.
Caine said the health department was closely monitoring cases among the high school population.
Citing CDC guidance, Caine said outdoor events in Marion County can have up to 50% capacity. Indoor events would remain at 25% for the time being, she said.
Caine believes we’ll see a significant loosening of restrictions later on in the summer as the vaccination rate improves. She also floated the idea of having special sections in businesses for vaccinated individuals, comparing it to the concept of having smoking and non-smoking sections, although she didn’t go into great deal about the idea.