Getting her vaccine

Kim Heldt, a resident of Gibson County but an employee at Vincennes University, receives the COVID-19 vaccine Monday afternoon at the Knox County Health Department’s clinic at Community United Methodist Church on Hart Street Road. Heldt was one of several who a second dose of the vaccine on Monday, but appointments are fewer and fewer. The health department will close the off-site clinic on May 21.

County health officer Dr. Alan Stewart says Knox County is reaching a milestone in the fight against COVID-19, as the health department plans to close the doors of its vaccination clinic later this month.

“At this point we’re typically only seeing a trickle,” Stewart said of the few people visiting the clinic, located on Hart Street Road, daily.

While having relatively small numbers of individuals seeking out the vaccine could be cause for concern, in Knox County it is more likely cause for celebration — the vast majority of adults have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“Locally we’re almost at herd immunity,” Stewart said, the joy in his voice clearly audible as he checked the most recent vaccination numbers for the county.

More than 12,000 adults have been fully vaccinated, and another 12,542 have received the first dose of a two-shot series, meaning that within a couple of weeks roughly 80% of Knox County adults will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Stewart says May 21 will be the last day area residents can utilize the Moderna vaccination clinic, located at Community United Methodist Church, 1548 S. Hart Street Road, for first or second doses of the vaccine.

After that, the building will be returned to the hands of the church, and residents who are seeking vaccinations will be directed to the health department itself, located at 305 S. Fifth St.

Stewart says the local health department will most likely transition away from Moderna in favor of using the Pfizer vaccine when they return to their own offices.

The move, Stewart says, is in large part because Pfizer is approved to be administered to those ages 16 and older, and health officials expect it to receive emergency approval for those 12 and up in the coming days.

“That’s being evaluated by the CDC currently, and it should be getting permission any day now,” Stewart said, noting that the Moderna vaccine is approved only for those 18 and older.

During their weekly Facebook Live show, Adam Thacker and Dr. Scott Stine, too, commented on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in younger populations.

“It is the same dose and has shown a similar side effect profile (as in adults) and 99% efficacy. This would be moving us toward that magical number of herd immunity,” said Thacker.

Thacker, chief operating officer of Good Samaritan, said another benefit for teens who are fully vaccinated include not being subjected to quarantine requirements, should they find themselves exposed to another COVID-positive student, teacher or family member.

“You don’t have to quarantine, or miss events and activities,” Thacker said, adding that young people are “wonderful vessels for carrying viruses from person-to-person, so we want to be able to shut that down.”

Stine, the chief medical officer at Good Samaritan, says when Pfizer is approved for the younger demographic it is likely the hospital will alter its clinic hours so working parents can bring children in to be vaccinated after the school and work day.

Too, he says, he’s hopeful any remaining eligible, unvaccinated adults will seek out their opportunity to get the shot.

“Some people with COVID are sick for weeks, and have to take off work for two, three, four or even five weeks. That affects their family members as well,” said Stine.

He and other local health officials, though, are grateful that local cases of the virus are trending down after a small increase over the past three weeks.

“We’ve had 3,700 cases since we began a year ago, but the numbers look more encouraging, with an all-positivity rate around 2.7% and the unique individual rate is 5.4%, which has come down dramatically in the past couple of weeks,” Stine said.

Both Stine and Stewart say they anticipate Knox County returning to blue this week on the Indiana COVID-19 Dashboard.

“We are in the blue range today and should be blue this week unless something happens,” said Stewart, noting there are currently 30 active cases of the virus in the county, with most of those found in young adults and children.

From now through May 21, the Moderna COVID-19 clinic, located on Hart Street Road, will be open 2-7 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

Beginning May 24, the health department will return to its own facility and offer Moderna vaccines on Mondays and Thursdays from 12-4:00 p.m. and Pfizer on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Fridays from 12-4:00 p.m.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call the health department office at 812-882-8700.

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