May 21—GOSHEN — The Goshen High School gym transformed into a temporary new base for doling out COVID-19 vaccines to local residents Thursday morning.
WHERE: Goshen High School gym, 401 Lincolnway East
WHEN: 9 a.m. — 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, after opening Thursday
WHO: Open to anyone in the area
WHAT: Free doses of Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson shots are limited to adults. Youths 12 — 17 have to take the Pfizer shot.
A three-day vaccination clinic, led by the Indiana State Department of Health, opened at the gym with more than 1,600 doses at the ready for anybody seeking a shot.
Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait said 540 free Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-brand vaccines would be available each day of the clinic through Saturday. About 275 people had already signed up for inoculations as of 10 a.m. Thursday, she said.
The vaccines are open to anybody, including teenagers, as the health department looks to double the number of vaccinated residents over the next month, according to Wait.
"We really want to welcome parents to bring their 12-15 year-olds," Wait said. "This is our way to have a normal school year."
She reminded that youths aged 12 to 17 are limited to the Pfizer shot. Adults are eligible to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
About a quarter of the county is fully vaccinated now, she said, with an expectation of vaccinations reaching 50% in the next month. As the process moves forward, Wait noted that while the county has seen increases in the number of Latino residents receiving vaccines, she sees a need to start targeting the local Black community since the vaccination rate among that demographic is apparently lagging.
"The health department or the community needs to reach out to our 20-to-40-year-old African-Americans, in particular males, because we are low on those numbers," Wait said.
Vaccination numbers among Latino residents, meanwhile, have increased over the past weeks, Wait pointed out, saying she's confident about efforts to reach local members of those populations.
Goshen City Council member Gilberto Perez Jr. believes two vaccination clinics in the past month have helped boost the numbers.
"I would say right now, the Latinx population in the county and in the city of Goshen is actually moving toward more vaccination," Perez Jr. said.
One event was at the Concord Event Center in Elkhart on April 30, organized by Latinos for Education. The other was held Tuesday at St. John's the Evangelist Catholic Church in Goshen. Along with those sites, Perez said other churches have wanted to host vaccination clinics as well, and he pointed out Latinos were waiting in line for Thursday's clinic.
Perez also credits team leaders at local manufacturers for helping convince more workers to receive shots.
"Giving the shift worker a peer to talk to that says, 'Hey, I got vaccinated why don't you go get vaccinated,' I think that is encouraging more people to go," Perez said.
Dr. Wait noted undocumented immigrants are welcome to receive vaccines at this week's clinic at the high school.
Meanwhile, she advised residents to continue wearing facemasks while vaccinations continue, and while Elkhart County is under a state-designated orange advisory level due to recent COVID-19 activity.
"I think right now, while we're in advisory level orange, it's reasonable to continue to wear your mask," Wait said. "If you aren't vaccinated, you aren't safe. We still have a high rate of spread in this community."
The vaccination clinic at Goshen High School is set to run again 9 a.m. — 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Appointments can be made by calling 2-1-1 or online via www.OurShot.IN.gov. Walk-in patients will also be able to get shots.
Aimee Ambrose can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 240316. Follow her on Twitter at @aambrose_TGN.