LAGRANGE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out, one northeast Indiana county is facing high levels of vaccine hesitancy.
LaGrange County has one of the lowest populations of fully vaccinated individuals. As of Friday, just over 5,300 residents (18.8% of the county’s population) are considered fully vaccinated. That is the lowest rate in northeast Indiana and the second lowest among all Indiana counties.
Dr. T. Anthony Pechin, LaGrange County’s health officer, says most of the area’s vaccine hesitancy stems from the county’s Hispanic and Amish communities. According to Dr. Pechin, many people in these communities do not trust conventional healthcare, especially among the Amish where the use of non-traditional medicines is high.
“Historically, we’ve been a poorly vaccinated and poorly healthcare utilized community,” Dr. Pechin said. “We have probably 15% of our newborns getting their appropriate vaccines by age two.”
LaGrange County officials often partner with the state health department to educate Amish residents on the benefits on conventional medicine and getting vaccinated. Health officials try to find Amish residents who are okay with getting vaccinated and convince their friends to do the same. They also reach out to organizations who manage insurance for the Amish or buy ads in publications that are distributed to the Amish community.
Given the county’s high rate of vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Pechin says a realistic goal is to have 20-25% of the county’s population fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
As LaGrange County officials continue to address this hesitancy, the health department is hosting a mass vaccine clinic Saturday morning at Lima-Brighton elementary in Howe. Dr. Pechin and Bill Borr, LaGrange County’s emergency management director, said they hope to vaccinate 300-400 individuals on Saturday. As of Wednesday, Borr said less than 50 appointments are booked for Saturday’s clinic.
Those who are interested in getting vaccinated at this clinic can register online at ourshot.in.gov or call 211. Saturday’s clinic will offer first doses of the Moderna vaccine, with second doses being administered on May 22.