ELKHART — The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are expected to given in Elkhart as early as next week, according to Beacon Health System.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to grant emergency use authorization to one or more vaccines in the near future, said Dr. Dale Patterson, vice president of Medical Affairs at Memorial Hospital South Bend. He expects vaccinations will be given in Michiana as early as Friday, Dec. 18, he said in a video released by Beacon Health.
Initial vaccines will be targeted to those at the highest risk, including health care workers, Patterson said. According to Patterson, vaccines will be given at several local hospitals, including Elkhart General and Goshen Hospital.
“We will be prioritizing those health care workers who are at the highest risk, to get the vaccine first, and expect that by mid-January we’ll be able to vaccinate most of the health care workers who want to get the shot in this area,” Patterson said.
After that, he expects that the vaccine will begin to become available to at-risk members of the public, and that other members of the public will be able to get the vaccine in the spring and early summer.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience and we hope that we can get most of the community vaccinated by late spring or early summer. In the meantime, we need to keep wearing masks, washing our hands and social distancing,” he said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine, but there’s still a winter to get through and still some hurdles to get over before we get that. So we appreciate everyone’s help in preventing the spread of COVID.”
Elkhart County, which is the Indiana county with the highest total number of COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents, has lost 272 residents to the virus, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Almost 100 of those residents died in the last 30 days.
In the years 2015-2019, an average of 1833 Elkhart County residents died each year, of all causes. The 272 COVID-19 deaths so far this year would account for 14.8 percent of the county’s death in a normal year, but data through October show that Elkhart County has a higher number of deaths this year.
Counting only deaths between March and October in 2015 through 2019, each of those years had a total that varied from 1,149 to 1,241 (only one of the years had more than 1,200 in this period), with an average of 1,182.4. In 2020, the same period had a total of 1,294 deaths, according to data provided by the Elkhart County Health Department. That is 111.6 more deaths than the 2015-2019 average.