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Indiana health leaders work to combat vaccine hesitancy as cases, hospitalizations increase

Demand for coronavirus vaccines is declining as the state sees a slight increase in cases, hospitalizations and variants.

INDIANAPOLIS — The race continues between vaccines and the COVID-19 variants.  

“We know we have lots of work to do here in Indiana,” said Dr. Lindsey Weaver, Indiana’s chief medical officer, during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing. 

State health leaders said the demand for vaccines is declining as the state sees a slight increase in cases, hospitalizations and variants.  

Indiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached their highest level since mid-February following a weekslong general upward trend that began in late March. 

The latest numbers show 955 people in the hospital as of Monday. That’s the highest it's been since Feb. 17. 

Nearly 1,100 cases involving COVID-19 variants have been reported in Indiana, including 823 cases of the U.K. variant. That’s why state health leaders are trying to get the word out about vaccine appointments. An emergency alert was sent to cell phones in central Indiana Tuesday, saying appointments are available at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Since the alert, the number of vaccination appointments at the site have more than doubled.  

RELATED: Latest Indiana coronavirus updates

"The process potentially saved hundreds of lives. The public alert system is a valuable tool that we will use judiciously to make Hoosiers aware of important health issues. We do not take its use lightly, which is why it used sparingly while give our other messaging a chance to work,” Weaver said. 

A map from the CDC shows Indiana still ranked near the bottom for the percentage of its population being fully vaccinated, with about 33 percent of eligible Hoosiers. The state’s goal is more than 60 percent. 

"That 20% to 30% that in every survey has said, ‘I'm not getting the vaccine, I'm not interested.’ That's just about having a conversation with them, and that's about individuals who care about them, whether they work with them, whether they're part of their family, part of their community, part of their church, investigating with them what it is that keeps them from getting the vaccine,” said Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner. 

Weaver said at the moment, every shot is a win.  

“Honestly, at this point, it’s whatever it takes,” Weaver said. “We’re trying to do everything we can, and we are working with partners to see what they can also do to help increase our vaccination rate.”