Regenstrief Institute projects COVID-19 vaccines will impact hospitalizations, deaths in two to three months

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INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday, healthcare workers in Indianapolis were delivered hope with the first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine. It was a day filled with excitement after a grueling year, but the next few weeks will still come with challenges and more loss.

Brian Dixon, Director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute, said he expects to see impacts on hospitalizations and deaths in two to three months based on the projected vaccine rollout in the state.

Indiana recorded the most COVID-19 deaths in November and December is already on pace to beat that. As of Wednesday, more than 6,600 Hoosiers have died of COVID-19.

“Right now, some of our projections show we could see as many as 9,000 or 10,000 deaths by the end of January,” said Dixon.

Healthcare workers, long term care residents and staff will be the first groups in Indiana to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Roughly 50 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the state are attributed to residents of long-term care but that means the other 50 percent are connected to the greater community.

“It is not until we being to vaccinate the high-risk populations in early 2021 that we will start to see an impact on those outcomes in the community,” Dixon said.

Dixon explained deaths lag about a month to six weeks, so numbers reported now were probably infections that occurred in late October and November.

“Hospitalizations and deaths will continue to plague us for a while until both the vaccine can be distributed, as well as expecting more infections potentially to happen over the holiday season,” he said.

A small vaccine shot is still bringing a giant leap in the effort to end this pandemic. With no time to waste, IU Health began administering the doses shortly after receiving the shipment. Roughly 200 healthcare workers got their first shot on Wednesday. Dr. Warren Gavin, a hospitalist, was one of them.

“Feels good. It’s a relief. I don’t know how to describe it. I am glad I am here. I am glad I got it and I hope others do to,” Dr. Gavin said.

Like so many of his colleagues, he takes care of COVID-19 patients every day. For 10 months he’s seen the worst of the pandemic.

“I have had trouble sleeping because I am so excited about taking this vaccination,” he said.

The weeks ahead may be grim, but these vaccines are delivering hope in small doses.

IU Health expects to receive 975 more doses on Thursday and an additional 3,000 on Monday.

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