The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in the earliest phases of the rollout was availability of vaccine.
Now, hesitancy to get vaccinated could start to become a limiting factor in the rate of vaccination uptake.
That has led Indiana’s state department of health to tell local clinics to start offering walk-in COVID-19 shots, without an appointment.
Walk-ins are supposed to start on Monday (April 26). It’s still possible to make an appointment to receive a vaccine, which local officials continue to encourage.
Asked if it was a state mandate to accept walk-ins, Monroe County’s health administrator Penny Caudill described it this way: “I would say we were told that we’re going to be doing it. There wasn’t really an option.” Caudill was speaking at Friday’s weekly news conference held by local leaders on COVID-19 response.
Caudill said the notification that local clinics would have to take walk-ins, starting Monday, came yesterday (Thursday).
Caudill told The Square Beacon that when a walk-in receives a first dose, they’ll still have an appointment scheduled for their second dose.
Caudill said the appointment for a second dose would guard against the possibility that the walk-in would return too early for their second dose. The second dose is supposed to be administered three or four weeks after the first dose, depending on the vaccine brand.
IU Health south central region president Brian Shockney called the switch from appointment-only vaccine shots to one that includes walk-ins “a quick, quick pivot.” Shockney said it was part of the push to get shots in arms, and get as many Hoosiers vaccinated as possible.”
Shockney asked for patience during the transition from appointment-only shots to one where clinics are offering both walk-ins and appointments. Shockney encouraged people who have already made appointments to keep them.
Shockney said, “If you already have an appointment that’s scheduled in the next two weeks, keep that appointment, because you know we’ll get a vaccine for you.”
Another kind of transition will take place in local clinic locations. Shockey reported that IU Health’s Bloomington clinic will be giving its last first doses on May 14 and its last second doses in mid-June.
That’s because the Indiana University Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall site will be absorbing the vaccination activity, Shockney said. So far, IU Health has used 55,079 of the 55,530 vaccine doses that it has received, which is a 99.2-percent rate, Shockney said.
Assembly Hall has already absorbed the bulk of the vaccination work that was being done at the Monroe County convention center clinic site. The convention center site is in its waning days, and will not take walk-in appointments, Caudill said, because only second doses are currently being administered there.
The Assembly Hall operations will expand to accommodate the additional vaccination work that will come from the IU Health clinic, according to Indiana University assistant vice president for strategic partnerships Kirk White.
White said there are still 250 open appointment slots for Assembly Hall for the week of April 26. He encouraged people to make an appointment online. For the following week, starting May 3, Assembly Hall has 3,200 open appointment slots, White said.
White tied the prospects of the university getting back to normal operations to vaccination rates. “With a high percentage of vaccination, we’re going to be able to get back to normal operations. Without that, it’s going to be questionable,” White said.
The continued push for people to get vaccinated comes as local and statewide positive case numbers, and hospitalization numbers, have shown an upsurge recently, even if the numbers are not as dramatic as they were late last year.
Monroe County’s rolling 7-day average of cases was 15 in early March, rose to double that by early April, and has now ebbed to about 22 cases a day.
The conduct of people who are weary of the protocols on mask wearing and limits on gathering size—it’s still 15 in the city of Bloomington—is a continuing challenge.
At Friday’s press conference, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, reported that the day before, on Thursday, police broke up a party at an apartment building on Walnut Street, with 400 or 500 people in attendance, who were standing “shoulder-to-shoulder.”
Many in attendance were apparently IU students. White said on Friday that police reports are sent on the dean of students, and appropriate disciplinary action is taken. White said he had spoken to the dean on Friday morning and the dean was planning to conduct disciplinary hearings Friday afternoon.
White said that even though the semester is almost over, “We’re still serious about this.”