The Journal Gazette
Saturday, July 31, 2021 1:00 am

State emphasizes need for shots

Up to 'all of us' to end pandemic, heath officials stress

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – State health officials had a clear message Friday during their latest briefing on the latest coronavirus wave – get vaccinated.

“What I hope is that we all share a personal responsibility to do no harm to others,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said. “Until we increase our vaccination rates, and unless we use every tool available to us to stop the spread of disease this virus will continue to have the advantage, it will continue to mutate, and we will be constantly playing whack-a-mole for the foreseeable future.

“I personally do not want to play games with Hoosiers' lives. It's all up to the rest of you and all of us to stop this pandemic.”

Box said new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the rampant delta variant is far easier to transmit to others, which is why the state is seeing cases spike to last year's levels but below the peak.

The delta variant is as infectious as measles or chickenpox, which means that each infected person can infect an average of eight or nine other people, Box said.

On Friday, the state reported 1,461 new COVID-19 cases – the fourth straight day over 1,000. The seven-day positivity rate has climbed to 6.8% – the highest since early February. The state also reported six new deaths.

Allen County added 84 new cases and no new deaths.

Hospitalizations are also up, though deaths remain at the lowest levels in months, Box said. But she cautioned that deaths lag and could rise as a result of the new cases in the coming weeks.

Of the 56 breakthrough deaths – those who were fully vaccinated – the mean age was 79. Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana Department of Health, said studies are being done on whether the vaccine immunity is waning in those who first received it, the elderly. Booster shots might be necessary in the future.

But Box noted that of nine recent long-term care deaths, only one was fully vaccinated.

“We always knew that our immune system above 60 to 65 doesn't work as well, we don't respond as well to the influenza vaccine or any other vaccines we get. And that's why we need to layer protection with them, but I do, for sure know that our vaccine is showing that it is helping this population,” she said.

Weaver said an immunized person's odds of getting infected with COVID-19 are 1 in 892; odds if unvaccinated are 1 in 14. The odds of being hospitalized if vaccinated are 1 in 18,795 but are 1 in 237 if unvaccinated.

One bright spot is that last week was the highest number of first-dose vaccinations since early May.

Weaver said she thinks people are seeing friends and family members get infected and are choosing to get the shot.

Asked if either of them plan to leave state government, Box said no but admitted being tired.

“We're worn out, to be honest with you,” Box said. “We had a little bit of a down week just from the standpoint of, it's hard to kind of get geared up again and you know, get the team fired up. I saw it on the faces of all my colleagues and I hear it across the state and our public health people.”

Weaver said, “I'm not going anywhere.”

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