Allen County’s Health Department is feeling optimistic this week as COVID case numbers trend downwards in the County. Also, vaccine distribution continues to grow and become available to more people.
From February 18-24, 2021 the county has reported an average of 60 new cases per day. That’s a long way from two months ago when we were averaging 230 cases a day from December 18-24, 2020.
“We continue to see cases trend down,” said Dr. Matthew Sutter, Allen County’s Health Commissioner. “They’ve plateaued just a bit, but they’re at a fairly low level. So we’re really, really much better than I thought we’d be at this point.”
Wednesday, he and his health department announced the expansion of their COVID-19 vaccine clinic when it begins providing Pfizer shots in early March. The Department will begin administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum beginning the week of March 8. The site has been using only the Moderna vaccine and averaging about 1,200 appointments each week because of limited availability of that vaccine. The transition to the Pfizer shots will allow the Department to increase capacity to serve closer to an average of 2,400 people each week.
“The upshot of this is we’ll be able to deliver almost twice as many shots per day at our clinic, which is really good news for Allen County,” Sutter said.
This comes a day after it was announced that Hoosiers ages 60 to 64 can now receive the vaccine.
“The state’s decided to take an age group approach to this which I think is a very rational way of doing this,” Sutter continued. “So being able to add the 60-64 is great. Next, we’ll be adding high risk groups. There’s five high risk groups the state has identified and then continuing going down to age 50.”
Two U.K. studies released this week showed that COVID-19 vaccination programs are contributing to a sharp drop in hospitalizations. A study in Scotland found that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vacine cut hospital admissions by up to 94 percent and the Pfizer-BioNTech shot reduced admissions by up to 85% four weeks after the first dose. These studies are further encouragement for Sutter.
“So this is more great news for the vaccines,” he said. “The good news is that the first two vaccines out of the gate, the Moderna and the Pfizer, have been just phenomenal, better than what we normally see with vaccines. 95 percent effective in stopping all symptomatic disease and tremendously effective in stopping hospitilization and death. That’s great news and this U.K. study is just further evidence of that, that people getting these vaccines are not getting hospitilized and they’re not dying.”
In conclusion, Dr. Sutter said as good as things are looking, the community has to remain vigilant with COVID safety practices if it wants these positive trends to continue.
“What I really urge people to do though is to not change things just yet,” he explained. “Everything is looking good but if suddenly everyone takes their mask off and starts congregating and having parties and traveling together in vehicles, we could see another spring surge and all those people who get sick and die in the meantime are ones that we could prevent.”
Sutter currently has no prediction as to when Allen County will reach herd immunity or any sort of “normal.”