INDIANAPOLIS — Two big COVID-19 vaccination events over the weekend did not attract the number of people organizers hoped to see, and it may be a sign of the growing challenges health officials see across the country.
The multilingual registration hotline was meant to increase the number of people still not vaccinated. More languages were added, volunteers turned out and the city did its part.
Over eight hours, only around 50 people called in comparison to 800 in March. The lack of response might be sign of the seriousness of vaccine hesitancy public health officials confront as the city moves to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
"Indianapolis really is leading the country back to a sense of normalcy, but we still have a ways to go. And the truth is, as (Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine) can attest, we’re still below 40% in terms of the total number of residents vaccinated, and I said in our briefing just this past week, I’d like to be at 50% by July 4," Mayor Joe Hogsett said.
The Marion County Public Health Department worked with a number of churches on the west side of Indianapolis to increase access to the vaccine. Officials said 200 could be vaccinated at Saturday's pop-up clinic, but only 19 people who were offered a $10 gift card of their choice showed up.
Incentives may have to continue to connect people who choose for personal reasons to be on the sidelines.
"Sometimes these incentives are being used for essential things that our citizens may really need and so it’s an additional tool for us," Caine said. "So it’s an additional tool for us in order if I can take care of your essential need, then you may have more of a time and opportunity to take care of those vaccines as another priority for you."
Behind the scenes, public health organizations were frustrated with the turnout at the weekend's vaccination clinics, but they said they are not giving up and they are committed to holding more events to make sure people can receive the vaccine.