By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — Health officials are starting to see a plateauing in the demand for the COVID-19 vaccinations locally and elsewhere as the campaign to end the pandemic continues.
Local leaders have seen two indicators that suggest a growing number of people who wanted a vaccine have gotten one.
The much anticipated five-day vaccination clinic in Warsaw last week saw 699 people receive their first shot, according to the Indiana Department of Health. That level was far below what had been available.
At the K21 Health Pavilion, the Kosciusko County immunization clinic has seen demand drop to about 60% of capacity, according to County Health Officer Dr. William Remington.
Attempts to offer the free vaccine without an appointment are growing.
On Wednesday, the county announced that the clinic at the K21 Health Pavilion is now open for walk-in vaccines Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Walk-ins must arrive no later than 3:30 p.m. to receive a vaccine.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer announced that K21 Health Foundation has developed a video that will begin circulating on social media underscoring the importance of being vaccinated.
Officials were asked Wednesday how their strategy might shift as demand for vaccines falls.
Remington said such a decline in demand is inevitable and that they will have to remain “nimble and creative” in making the medicine available.
“You just keep plugging away and trying to find innovative ways to connect and make it easier for people while also trying to dispel that noise that is out there,” he said.
The urgency to distribute vaccines remains because more people being vaccinated is needed to move the community closer to herd immunity.
“The greatest good is now. This is a critical time between now and mid-June (or) Memorial Day,” Remington said.
He said he’d specifically like to see people in their 20s and 30s consider getting the shot because many of the new cases are being spread by younger segments of the population.
Thallemer has been the most outspoken elected official to tout the importance of testing and vaccines.
“I felt we’ve done the best we can with what we’ve got and we’re blessed to have the health department, volunteers and Bowen Center,” Thallemer said.
Officials will work to continue to “demystify” rumors, provide more information and hope those who had a wait-and-see outlook will now choose to be vaccinated.
Through an insurer, the city of Warsaw is offering $50 cards to city employees who get vaccinated, Thallemer said.
But in the end, Thallemer said, “there’s only so much they can do” to encourage it.
The county has seen a slight uptick in cases in recent weeks. The region, including South Bend and Elkhart, has seen a rise in hospitalizations, but the northeast part of the state has not.
Two neighboring counties – Elkhart and Whitley – shifted to the more concerning orange on the state’s website while Kosciusko County remains yellow.
According to the health department, nearly 26% of Kosciusko County residents are now fully vaccinated.
A spike in cases in Michigan appears to have peaked.
But maybe more importantly, a gradual hike in cases in the county fell last week for the first time in six weeks.
Teresa Reed, the county’s communicable disease nurse, sounded optimistic about that.
“We’re finding we haven’t had that accelerating curve and that’s very exciting to me,” Reed said. “I’m glad Michigan’s numbers are starting to come down a little.”