AUBURN — No-shows have become a growing crisis for DeKalb County’s COVID-19 vaccination site.
Approximately 100 people failed to keep their appointments April 14 at the vaccination site on the DeKalb County Fairgrounds in Auburn, said county Health Officer Dr. Mark Souder.
“This whole thing about not showing up for the vaccine you’ve scheduled is a big problem to us,” he said.
People are booking two appointments and failing to cancel the one they do not use, Souder said.
“They’re double-booking themselves all the time. That’s happening all over the region, from what I’m being told,” he said. “The state booking program does allow that, apparently. It doesn’t catch it or doesn’t stop it.”
No-shows have been growing over the past few weeks and reached a peak April 14.
The missed appointments are delaying others from getting their vaccinations, Souder said, and they are wasting the time of workers and volunteers at the vaccination sites.
“We just can’t keep a clinic open and have 25-30% no-shows. … I respect our volunteers’ time way too much to allow that to happen,” he said.
“Volunteers are now becoming harder to find, and the ones that are sticking with us ... are certainly doing a great civic duty for which we can be very thankful,” he added.
The vaccination site keeps a waiting list of people to call when it has leftover doses, but now there is more unused vaccine than the waiting list can absorb.
“The waiting lists were very effective at first, and now they’re starting to fail in their effectiveness,” Souder said.
Souder traces the no-show trend to the opening of vaccine availability to younger age groups.
“The older people were responsible about it, but the younger people, since we’ve opened it up to them, have been very disrespectful of the schedule,” he said.
“The older people wanted to get their vaccines, and the younger people are ambivalent, or they schedule double places in many cases, and they just go where it’s easier for them without unscheduling the other vaccine appointment.”
Most of the cancellations are for first shots, and many of those canceling live outside DeKalb County, Souder added.
Souder does not see the no-show trend as a result of recent news about blood clots in a few people who had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“That just happened a couple of days ago, so that has nothing to do with this,” he said.
However, Souder said the federal government’s decision to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “is going to cause a thousand times more problems than it does good.”
He said, “They have used a threshold for pulling the vaccine that’s probably way too low for the circumstances that we’re in.
“It’s generated mistrust. It’s caused delays. There are populations that aren’t trackable to get their second vaccines scheduled, so they were using them (Johnson & Johnson shots) very effectively for people that couldn’t get back in easily for a second vaccine, due to mobility or homelessness or transportation or other issues,” he said.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot, while the Moderna vaccine used at the Auburn site and the Pfizer vaccine given at Parkview Health’s site in Fort Wayne require two shots.
A half-dozen mutations of the COVID-19 coronavirus are circulating in Indiana, including one from South Africa, Souder said.
For people who already are vaccinated, he said, “There’s no information that they’re going to be coming down with new variants in any large numbers at all. That’s subject to change with the next mutation, however.”
DeKalb County’s new COVID-19 cases doubled the week of April 11 compared to recent weeks, reaching double-digits for the first time in six weeks.
Souder blames the increase on spring break travel, Easter family gatherings and a letup in mask-wearing and precautions.
New patients are tending to be in younger age groups, as older people become vaccinated.
Even though new patients are younger, he said, “They’re still spreaders, and they’re still causing disruption in the economic system by people having to miss work and by emergency room and doctor visits, and there are still some hospitalizations, even in the younger people.”
The health officer issued a plea to assist any older residents who still have not been vaccinated.
“If there’s someone that doesn’t have the ability or the awareness to get their vaccine, please help them,” he said. “Please help them get it scheduled, and please help them to the vaccine site the day that their vaccine is due.”