‘Herd immunity is not a switch’: Marion County officials continue to monitor data before complete reopen


INDIANAPOLIS–Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine said Tuesday that Marion County residents still have a long way to go to reach herd immunity.

“Herd immunity is not a switch, it is a gradient,” said Dr. Caine during an update on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Caine acknowledged the plan is still to completely reopen Marion County on or around July 4, but officials are continuing to monitor the data to see if that goal can be met.

One previously announced benchmark was to have a 50% vaccination rate in Marion County before lifting existing restrictions, but Dr. Caine said the decision ultimately is not about passing one specific metric. 

She said COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and positivity rate continue to drop dramatically, which are all positive signs.

Mayor Hogsett said recent successful Juneteenth celebrations, Fathers Day gatherings and more events have reminded Hoosiers of what we’ve been missing out on since the start of the pandemic. 

“By getting your shot, you have helped make this a summer of reunion for the city of Indianapolis,” said Hogsett.

He said the best part of the vaccine effort so far is the reduction of serious illness and mortality we have seen since vaccinations were initially made available. The mayor congratulated everyone who has helped in the effort, but said we still have work to do.

Hogsett explained that vaccinated residents of Marion County now make up less than 1% of positive tests for covid in the state of Indiana. He added, “Those few who become infected are 100 times less likely to require hospitalization than unvaccinated individuals.”

He cited the CDC, and said the Delta COVID-19 variant is prevalent among those under 50 and is predicted to soon become the dominant strain in the country.

Dr. Caine added another warning about the Delta variant, saying it is estimated at being 40 % more contagious and the United Kingdom is seeing 12 to 20-year-olds being impacted significantly.

Mayor Hogsett and Dr. Caine also addressed vaccine hesitancy. The mayor said being unvaccinated is imposing an unnecessary burden on yourself and the healthcare system.

“Those who remain unvaccinated will still suffer COVID’s worst effects if they become infected. If you are hesitant, I urge you to reach out to those who have received the shot,” said Hogsett.

For those that have yet to be vaccinated, Dr. Caine announced that the Marion County Health Department is offering prizes like Indianapolis Zoo memberships, Children’s Museum tickets and items like signed jerseys of Colts and Pacers players. 

This promotion is running now through July 2nd at Marion County pop-up clinics and health department locations. For more information and to find a vaccine location near you, visit MarionHealth.org/VaccinateIndy.

“I am confident that vaccines will continue to reach our residents in the coming days, weeks and months,” said Dr. Caine.

She said she understands some parents are hesitant to get their children vaccinated, but said it’s far more of a risk for a child to get the disease than it is to get the vaccine. 

Dr. Caine explained the Emergency Use Authorization process requires clinical trials involving 10s of thousands of people and is the most intensive vaccine safety monitoring process in United States history. She added free transportation is available by calling 1-888-IU-Health, Option 9. 

39% of Marion County is vaccinated, according to Dr. Caine. In May, the Marion County Health Department vaccinated 125,000 people, of which 75,000 were Marion County residents.

“What can you do to ensure Indy can reopen soon? Get vaccinated,” said Dr. Caine.

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