Vaccine signs

Signs point motorists to the Knox County Health Department’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic located in the community building adjacent to Community United Methodist Church, located at 1548 S. Hart Street Road.

Knox County has the most residents vaccinated against COVID-19, per capita, than any other Hoosier county, data released by the state Department of Health showed Friday.

According to the state’s new COVID-19 vaccine-specific dashboard, Knox County has administered the first dose of the vaccine to nearly 4,000 people, or about 10% of the overall population here.

Just over 1,300 people are fully vaccinated, the dashboard said.

Officials took that data Friday and, with some quick math and most-recent U.S. Census numbers, determined Knox County had vaccinated more people, per capita, than anyone else.

Yet, local health officials are poised to do even more.

“I think we could do as many as 300 shots per day,” boasted Dr. Alan Stewart, the county’s health officer, of the health department’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Hart Street Road. “But, the way it’s looking, we’ll be limited to doing just 60-70 per day next week.”

The health department’s clinic, located in the community building of Community United Methodist Church at 1548 S. Hart Street Road, is completing its second full week of administering vaccines.

The first week, they were able to get 700 doses of the Moderna vaccine, and they dolled out all of them.

This week, however, they were cut by about half, and Stewart expects the clinic to receive just about 400 doses next week and beyond.

The clinic, though, is staffed to do much more; people have been eager to volunteer.

But Betty Lankford, the county’s COVID-19 nurse and clinic coordinator, said she is likely to reduce staff and volunteers next week because they simply aren’t needed right now — not with just 400 doses to administer in a week.

But Lankford said they’ve learned much in the first two weeks.

“We are a well-oiled machine right now,” she said. “We’re ready to go. The minute we’re able to get more vaccines, we’ll be able to whip them through here, and we’ll do a beautiful job.”

Lankford, too, said they’ve used the down time to rearrange the clinic to make it more efficient.

“I’m just really pleased with how the whole clinic is looking right now,” she said. “We’ve got all the first-week bugs worked out. We have plenty of people trained, and I’m excited about getting ready to go.”

Lankford, too, added that the clinic is booked through Feb. 9, unless the state releases more Moderna vaccines.

Good Samaritan’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic, too, is roaring along quite well, according to chief operating officer Adam Thacker.

The hospital has been giving out doses of the Pfizer vaccine; it requires ultra-cold storage so the state has been sending healthy supplies of it to hospitals and Moderna, which doesn’t, to health department clinics located off site.

Currently, Thacker said the clinic there has been doing 240 vaccines per day. They’ve recently made plans to increase that to 340 per day.

“We can do seven vaccines every ten minutes,” he said. “And we expect we will maintain that capacity through March.”

Thacker, too, said the hospital clinic is currently booked through Feb. 9, and many of them are those in the general population over the age of 70.

Healthcare workers still getting the vaccine, he said, are largely getting their second dose.

“Things are going very well, and the clinic continues to run very smoothly,” he said.

Indiana health officials announced on Thursday that they aren’t ready to start a further expansion of coronavirus vaccine eligibility as the state isn’t yet receiving enough doses from the federal government.

Indiana has made vaccinations available so far to health care workers, first-responders, educators and those ages 70 and older since the first shots started being given in early December.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said vaccination appointments will next open up for about 350,000 Indiana residents between ages 65 and 70, but she didn’t say when that will happen.

Regardless, Stewart said he is beginning to feel optimistic.

The new year saw it’s worst COVID-19 day on Jan. 13 when the state reported 53 new cases.

Since then, however, the daily number of new, confirmed cases has steadily dropped; just 13 were reported on Thursday, the latest day data was available.

Knox County’s total number of cases now sits at 3,343, and the infection rate did drop slightly to just under 11%.

It is, however, still designated as red on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, meaning gatherings of more than 20 people are prohibited.

“Our numbers are generally decreasing,” Stewart said, adding that the hospital, too, is faring better. “We’re getting our elderly population vaccinated, which is likely going to result in fewer severe cases.

“I’m optimistic that we are going to continue to see our numbers decrease.”

Stewart, too, added that the number of active cases has finally fallen below 200.

And given the number of people who have had COVID-19 and the number that have now been fully vaccinated, Stewart said Knox County is inching toward seeing 25-30% of its population protected.

“That isn’t close to herd immunity,” he said, “but it will continue to improve our numbers.”

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