INDIANAPOLIS — Your odds of being killed in a car crash are one in 102; being struck by lightning, one in 15,300; dying in a plane crash, one in 205,000; being eaten by a shark, one in 4 million; or dying in a tornado, one in 5.6 million.
Your odds of developing a blood clot by taking the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine: Extremely unlikely. According to Reuters out of more than 8 million J&J vaccines given, only 17 developed a clot.
I go over these morbidity figures as the Center of Disease Control reported earlier this week that just 25.4% of Hoosiers have been vaccinated, ranking 45th in the United States, while the Indiana State Department of Health puts it at 26.4%. Neighboring Michigan has turned into a COVID hotspot, with emergency rooms swamped with younger patients. It’s encroaching into Northern Indiana, with hospitals in Elkhart and Goshen at capacity, while statewide hospitalizations were up 50% since March.
Late last year, Indiana health officials were giddy over what has become a modern scientific breakthrough on the scale of the World War II Manhattan Project, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, or putting an American astronaut on the moon eight years after President Kennedy issued the challenge. That breakthrough was the COVID-19 vaccination, coming within a year. Nobel Prizes will be awarded for this achievement.
The more of us who get it means the days of social distancing, mask wearing, fanless stadiums, and closed schools and businesses would soon be over. Gov. Eric Holcomb frequently noted that we were seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel.”
On Wednesday, there was a pall over their weekly press conference. Demand for the vaccine is in steep decline here in Indiana as well as states like Alabama and Texas. Indiana Health Commissioner Kris Box explained, “Hoosiers, COVID is still here and it is not going away any time soon. Please stay vigilant. Please don’t let your guard down.” And the state’s top health officer, Dr. Lindsay Weaver, added, “We’re trying to do everything we can to get vaccine out, to look at different avenues, to continue the conversation, to continue the education. The bottom line is we have a lot of work to do.”
The state has made this free vaccine available to everyone, at mass vaccination sites at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gary Roosevelt HS, at IVY Tech at Sellersburg, and have sent mobile units into Elkhart and Warsaw, while outreach is under way in many Black and Latino communities. You can call 211 on your cellphone to set up an appointment or just walk in to many pharmacies, Walmarts and Meijers.
KPC News reporter Steve Garbacz reported a few weeks ago that the vaccine is having significant results: Approximately 74% of Hoosiers age 80 and older have been vaccinated and new cases in March and April 2021 were down 88.1% in that demographic compared to June-December 2020. For those in their 70s, vaccine uptake has hit 77% and new cases have dropped by 81.6%. For those in the 40s, some 33% of those vaccinated resulted in a 58.6% decline.
So what’s going on?
Part of it may be the politicization of the pandemic by former president Trump, who didn’t embrace face masks that CDC officials said at the time were the most effective way to prevent the COVID spread. It probably cost him the election. According to Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio in a post-election “autopsy,” the pandemic became the top issue, but he noted that “Joe Biden won the coronavirus voters, which was a bigger share.”
This comes as Politico reported that aides to former president Trump look back at the end of his term as a major missed opportunity to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated. “If he spent the last 90 days being the voice — and taking credit because he deserved to for the vaccine — and helping get as many Americans get vaccinated as he could, he would be remembered for that,” a former senior administration official said. Top White House aides planned for Trump to receive the vaccine on camera. Trump refused, while former Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Eric Holcomb did.
According to WIBC’s Eric Berman, the lowest rates of COVID vaccination (at least one dose), by county: LaGrange 23.1%, Newton 24.5%, Switzerland 25.3%, Franklin 25.7%, Daviess 27.1%, Carroll 29.2%, Parke 29.2%, Starke 29.6%, Miami 29.8% and Crawford 30.5%. This corresponds with support for President Trump in the 2020 election: LaGrange 76.3%, Switzerland 75%, Newton 75%, Franklin 80.8%, Starke 72.6%, Parke 77%, Carroll 74.5%, Daviess 80%, Crawford 70.4% and Miami 75.5%.
Trump has always seen himself as a master brander. So he missed a huge branding opportunity when he could have deployed some 70 million often ardent supporters who could have been walking advertisements with Trump face masks, all while tamping down what turned out to be skyrocketing hospitalizations and death rates just as voters started going to the polls last October and November.
Memo to Gov. Holcomb, Drs. Box and Weaver and Republicans in Congress, the General Assembly, the county courthouse and city hall: Reach out to these Trump voters if you want the population to reach “herd immunity” and a return to normal times.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.