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Herd immunity in Marion County by July 4? Probably not

"This is not going away until we get vaccination rates higher."

INDIANAPOLIS — With masks no longer required for fully vaccinated people in Marion County and restaurants, bars, museums and other attractions at 75 percent capacity, it may seem like the worst is behind us when it comes to the pandemic.

But Marion County's administrator of Infectious Disease and Immunizations warns: not so fast.

"People are exhausted and tired of the pandemic, but it's not over. We still have people in ICU in Marion County hospitals with COVID and 300 Americans are still dying every day because of COVID," Melissa McMasters said.

That's why health officials are still pushing to achieve herd immunity by July 4. While the goal was initially having 70-80% of all eligible residents vaccinated, it was lowered to 50% last month.

Even that, McMaster said, still looks like a stretch.

"If we continue on this trajectory, we're probably not going to get to 50%," she said.

RELATED: Unmasked in Marion County: Businesses respond to the changes

Marion County data shows vaccination rates surged in early April when eligibility opened up, but then plunged early this month. The overall vaccination rate now hovers at 36%. 

McMaster said that's worrisome.

"This is not going away until we get vaccination rates higher," she said.

Dr. Robin Ledyard, chief medical officer of Community Health, agreed.

"Because we don't have a treatment for COVID, it will continue to spread and we could get variants that then do not respond to the vaccines," Ledyard said.

When you break down the demographics, 37% of white residents have been fully vaccinated, followed by 26% of Asian and Latino residents and 22% of Black residents, who are at greater risk of complications and dying of COVID.

"People are hesitant because of the false rumors because of history," Rev. Ronald Covington, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church said.

Last weekend, his church hosted a pop-up clinic, which he worked to promote.

"I want to encourage everyone to do we have to do, trust. We have to trust science," he said.

RELATED: Marion County health officials push for 50-percent vaccination rate by July 1

Predominantly Black churches, along with health officials, at the forefront of getting the word out on the importance of getting vaccinated and making it easier to do so.

Community Health has done pop-up clinics at Wheeler Mission and in other underserved areas.

Ledyard and McMasters just hope it doesn't take a spike in new cases to get more people to roll up their sleeves.

Vaccination clinics Saturday

The Marion County Public Health Department is holding three COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Indianapolis this Saturday (June 12). 

A pop-up clinic will be held at Arsenal Tech High School from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. for 12-to-17-year-olds. Children will need consent from their parent or guardian to receive the vaccine. Family members over the age of 17 can also be vaccinated at the same time. 

Those who receive the vaccine at one of the health department's school-based clinics will be entered to win a $250 Simon Malls gift card.

Participants are asked to enter the Arsenal Tech campus from Oriental Street and enter the West Gym through Door 3. The two-dose Pfizer vaccine will be administered at this clinic.

RELATED: Indiana coronavirus updates: Community Health Network to require vaccine for employees; US officials extend expiration dates on J&J vaccine doses

Another clinic will be held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on the far east side as part of a health department partnership with Mt. Carmel Church and New Beginnings. 

The clinic, for residents 18 years old and older, will offer the two-dose Moderna vaccine and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and will be held at 9503 E. 33rd Street in Indianapolis.

A third clinic, offering the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, will be held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at 3685 Commercial Drive on the west side of Indianapolis. This clinic is open to anyone age 12 and older, though children are only eligible to receive the Pfizer shot.

Consent from a parent or guardian is required.

Walk-ins are welcome at all three clinics.