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Sunday, February 28, 2021

County health department aims for herd immunity by end of June

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Only 19% of Black people 70 and older in Marion County have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to data from the county health department.

That rate is the lowest among racial groups. The highest rates are Asians at 36% and whites at 32%.

The overall vaccination rate in the county for those 70 and older is 29%.

Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, shared the data Feb. 11 during a COVID-19 update.

Mayor Joe Hogsett said the city will share more in the coming weeks about the city’s effort to increase vaccination rates among African Americans and others who might be skeptical or distrustful of medical professionals.

The county health department has been working with community leaders such as pastors to promote the vaccine.

Increasing the vaccination rate is important because it will help the county reach herd immunity quicker.

If Marion County can substantially increase its vaccination rate starting next month, the county could reach herd immunity by the end of June. The county’s current vaccination rate would push herd immunity into October.

Caine said 80% of adults need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to achieve herd immunity.

The current vaccination rate is 2,297 per day; the goal is 4,380. That means Caine, who spoke during a COVID-19 update Feb. 11, wants the county to basically double its current rate.

There are two vaccines available right now — one from Moderna and one from Pfizer and BioNTech — but another produced by Johnson & Johnson is awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Caine said those doses could get to Marion County in mid-March. The company said it could produce 100 million doses of its vaccine, which only requires one dose instead of two, by the end of June.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Caine said.

Slight changes to the public health order

Marion County’s seven-day average for positivity rate, deaths, new cases, emergency room visits and hospitalizations have decreased since the beginning of the year, when Caine said there was likely a spike from the holidays.

New cases per day are down to 236 compared to 750 in early January, and the positivity rate is at 5.9%. The goal is 5% and below.

The county is now in the orange zone using state metrics.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities can allow visitors who have gotten a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours, developed natural immunity through infection within the last three months or been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks.

Anyone within 6 feet of an infected person at a high school must quarantine for 10 to 14 days. The same guidance applies to K-8, except the limit is 3 feet.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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