By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — What is likely Kosciusko County’s biggest and best chance to access a Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 is underway in Warsaw this week.
The five-day clinic run by the Indiana Department of Health at Center Lake Pavilion kicked off Tuesday, April 20, and is one of two massive clinics being offered by the state. The other one this week is in Gary, according to Shane Hatchett, chief of staff with the Indiana Department of Health, who participated in a news conference with local officials Tuesday morning.
Hatchett asked that everyone get the word out “about the availability and the importance of the vaccine and the ability to get us out of the pandemic.”
Warsaw was chosen as a site because the state’s desire to reach out to some of the more challenging segments of the population.
The vaccination, combined with social distancing, use of masks and staying home when ill, is a proven strategy that helps slow the spread, he said.
“These steps are more important than ever right now because we’re seeing an increase in the variants of the virus and these variants are much more infectious than the original version,” Hatchett said.
“If we are to get out of this swamp, so to speak, we’ve really have to get ahead of the curve,” he said.
He said the biggest increases in positive tests statewide are coming from people in their 20s and 30s, who are also among those with the lowest vaccination rates so far.
Many in that age segment think they are invincible, he said.
There is less concern among them, “but what folks don’t realize is you put people around you at risk,” Hatchett said.
“It’s much bigger than you, don’t be selfish about it,” he said.
Kosciusko County’s positivity rate hovers around 5%, but Hatchett said it’s becoming more challenging to keep that low because “people are letting their guard down.”
“The timing is perfect. The emergence of variants causing great havoc not too far away in Michigan is noteworthy,” said Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. William Remington.
“We have very safe and amazingly effective vaccines,” Remington said. “I implore Kosciusko County to just get ‘er done.”
Officials with the city and Kosciusko County lobbied for a large-scale clinic and said the timing could not be better after the state agreed to allow walk-ins without appointments to get shots.
Mayor Joe Thallemer said he hopes people take note of increasingly dangerous variants.
“Those things are, I hope, weighing on people. This isn’t going to just go away. We all have to do our part and take our shot,” Thallemer said.
“I would say this is the best opportunity we’ve got so far,” he said.
The free clinic is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m through Saturday. A similar event is set for May 11-15 for follow-up shots.
Registration is open now and available at ourshot.in.gov.
For assistance with vaccine registration or for questions, individuals are encouraged to call the Bowen Center Bilingual COVID-19 Hotline at (574) 347-4256.