A FASTER PACE: Vaccinations speed picking up in Bartholomew County

The number of Bartholomew County residents getting vaccinated against COVID-19 each week has risen during the first half of March, while the county’s pandemic death toll reached 150 and county health officials now developing plans for a mass vaccination site.

A total of 3,605 Bartholomew County residents received COVID-19 shots the week of March 8, up from 3,269 the week before, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

As of Friday morning, vaccinations this past week were on record pace, after 2,653 people received COVID-19 shots from Monday to Thursday.

Overall, a total of 17,844 Bartholomew County residents had received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday morning, and 11,861 people — nearly 14.2% of the county’s population — were fully vaccinated, state records show.

By comparison, about 13.6% of Indiana’s population was fully vaccinated as of Friday, as were 12.6% of the U.S. population, according to state and federal records.

The Bartholomew County Health Department received 100 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine two weeks ago and has started to administer them to people living in congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, said Amanda Organist, the department’s director of nursing.

As of Friday morning, county health officials said they had administered about 30 of those doses and are hoping to distribute more as they consider plans for a mass vaccination site in the county.

“We are hoping to receive more (Johnson & Johnson vaccines) as the states allocation increases to utilize in a community mass clinic,” Organist said.

In January, county health officials said they had been considering the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds, FairOaks Mall and Mill Race Center as potential locations for the mass clinic site, but officials said that they had not yet decided on a location.

Local health officials have said that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is ideal for mass vaccination clinics because it only requires one shot, unlike the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which would require organizing a second mass clinic to ensure everyone gets their second dose.

“With Pfizer and Moderna, you still have to then do another (mass clinic) in 21 or 28 days,” Dr. Slade Crowder, CRH vice president of physician enterprise operations and associate chief medical officer, said earlier this month.

Currently, officials at Columbus Regional Health, which operates a COVID-19 vaccination clinic near the hospital campus in Columbus, said they have been vaccinating around 1,900 people, on average, per week since early January and described the hospital system’s weekly allotment of shots as “pretty steady.”

“Our capacity has been running at greater than 95% full appointment rate since opening, with most days at 100% booked,” said CRH spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue. “The state allocates supply weekly, based on appointments for the following week. So we have seen no increase in what we receive, nor decrease.”

As of Wednesday evening, CRH officials had administered 22,898 COVID-19 shots, including about 10,100 second doses, since vaccinations began in December, DeClue said.

The Bartholomew County Health Department is receiving 700 doses of vaccines per week, but officials believe their weekly supply will be increasing soon, Organist said.

From Sunday to Thursday, the Bartholomew County Health Department administered 598 shots and a total of 5,277 since they received their initial shipments of vaccines in early January, Organist said.

CRH has primarily administered the Pfizer vaccine, while the Bartholomew County Health Department has mainly given out Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The updates from local health officials came as the U.S. cleared President Joe Biden’s goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus shots, more than a month before his target date of his 100th day in office, The Associated Press reported.

With the nation now administering about 2.5 million shots per day, Biden, who promised to set a new goal for vaccinations next week, teased the possibility of setting a 200 million dose goal by his 100th day in office, according to wire reports.

“We may be able to double it,” he told reporters before leaving the White House for Atlanta.

His comments come as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.

Also on Friday, state health officials said more than 1.3 million Hoosiers had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 900,000 Indiana residents had been fully vaccinated, or about 13.6% of the state’s population.

Currently, Indiana residents age 45 and up, as well as teachers, support staff, healthcare workers and first responders are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine appointments can be scheduled on the state’s online portal, ourshot.in.gov, or by calling 211.

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Hoosiers ages 40 and older will be eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, the Indiana Department of Health announced. This expansion of eligibility to include those ages 40 to 44 will make the vaccine available to more than 400,000 additional Hoosiers.

To schedule a vaccine, visit https://ourshot.in.gov and select a location from one of more than 450 clinics around the state. Hoosiers who do not have a computer or cell phone or those who need assistance scheduling an appointment can call 211 or contact one of Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging or AARP. Nearly 70 libraries around the state also are helping Hoosiers schedule their appointments.

Vaccination clinics that are part of the federal vaccine program, including those at Meijer and Kroger, appear on the clinic map at https://ourshot.in.gov but are scheduled through those retailers’ platforms, not through the state centralized system.