INDIANAPOLIS – The headline under LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody’s sunny, smiling face in the Herald-Dispatch was this: “LaPorte officials urge everyone to get COVID-19 vaccine: ‘We’re not trying to be political.’”

It’s headlines like this that really make me wonder whether the human race, which has been around in our evolutionary state for only about 10,000 years, is going to last more than the next century or two.

Here we stand amidst a modern scientific medical miracle: The development, testing and implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine within a year.

And what we face as a society is what is being called the “hard part,” which is getting the vaccine into the arms of about 50% of the population who have yet to receive a dose.

CDC stats reveal that only 23.4% of Hoosiers are fully vaccinated as of Thursday, which is below the national average of 26.4%, as well as neighbors Michigan (26.3%), Ohio (26.7%), Kentucky (27.8%), and Illinois (25.6%). More troubling is that vaccine doses administered declined by 17% in Indiana compared to last week. The ISDH dashboard reports that 1.644 million Hoosiers have been fully vaccinated.

WRTV reported Wednesday that Morgan County has cancelled a Saturday vaccination clinic due to lack of interest. Some 16,410 people out of 70,000 population have been vaccinated there, or 22%. The Washington Post reported today that there has been an 11% decline in vaccinations in the U.S. over the past week.

A Monmouth Poll last week revealed “partisanship” remains the main distinguishing factor among those who want to avoid the vaccine altogether, with 43% of Republicans versus just 5% of Democrats saying this (along with 22% of independents). This “vaccine hesitancy” demographic is poised to prevent the U.S. from attaining “herd immunity.” As COVID-19 mutates and morphs, the nasty scenario is what is happening in Michigan, which has a higher inoculation rate than Indiana, but finds its emergency rooms swamped with COVID patients, becomes the norm.

One of them is rocker Ted Nugent, who last week released a video rant at the “COVID-19 myth.” “I have had flu symptoms for the last 10 days and I thought I was dying,” Nugent said. “I was tested positive today. I’ve got a stuffed up head, body aches. My God, what a pain in the a--. I literally could hardly crawl out of bed the last few days. But I did. I crawled.”

Nugent defended his vaccine hesitancy, saying, “I guess I would ask you, because I’m addicted to truth, logic and common sense and my common sense meter would demand the answer to: Why weren’t we shut down for COVID one through 18? COVID 1-18 didn’t shut anything down, but whoa, COVID-19, even though it’s 99.8% survivable. Why didn’t we shut down for the AIDS epidemic or the flu or influenza every year?”

This comes as Politico reported that aides to former president Donald Trump look back at the end of his term as a major missed opoortunity to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated. “If he spent the last 90 days being the voice — and taking credit because he deserved to for the vaccine — and helping get as many Americans get vaccinated as he could, he would be remembered for that,” a former senior administration official said. Trump administration officials planned for Trump to receive the vaccine on camera.

It didn’t happen.

Mayor Dermody and others along the Michigan line like Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson and Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer are now pulling out all the stops, working with state health officials to open up walk-in vaccine sites.

Dermody showed up at his board of works and city council meetings to press the urgency. “We see what’s happening in the state of Michigan. We’re right along the border and our numbers are going up quickly,” Dermody said. “I think we’ve only had 25% of the county vaccinated. I want to give thanks to LaPorte County, they have done a marvelous job with their vaccination program. We have vaccines available throughout the city of LaPorte. If people aren’t sure about how to register, we have access because we’re always asked, ‘Do you have some arms?’”

Reporter Steve Garbacz of KPC News, which serves northeastern Indiana counties along the Michigan line, provided the stats: Approximately 74% of Hoosiers age 80 and older have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and new cases in March and April 2021 are down 88.1% in that demographic compared to June-December 2020. For those in their 70s, vaccine uptake has hit 77% and new cases have dropped by 81.6%. In the 60s age range, vaccine uptake is 65% and new cases have dropped 70.2%; at 50s it’s 47% vaccination rate and 61.5% drop in cases; in the 40s vaccines have hit 33% of the population and cases have dropped 58.4%; those in their 30s have 25% vaccinated and had a 54.6% drop in cases; for the 20s it’s 19% vaccinations and 54.1% drop in cases and for those younger than 20, of which only 3% are currently vaccinated, new cases have dropped the lowest at 42.9%.

So it’s working. The stats prove it.

On Wednesday, President Biden explained, “It’s an incredible achievement, but we still have some work to do with our target groups. If you’ve been waiting your turn, wait no longer. Now is the time.”

Why are so many hesitant to accept the vaccine?

With Black Americans, history such as the Tuskegee testing a century ago has left a legacy of distrust. The J&J suspension raised concerns, even though only one in a million reported adverse side effects. Kaiser Family Foundation surveys revealed  22% of people they polled recently are in a “wait and see” category, fearing side effects.

Stat.com reports that issues about vaccines often center more on anxieties than facts, said Heidi Larson, who directs the Vaccine Confidence Project.  “This can be a messy, emotional, difficult space. There are some people who aren’t going to change their minds no matter what, so focus more on the so-called movable middle. You might think of it as your swing vote — any political strategist will tell you that getting as much of the swing vote as you can is what’s important. It can also make people more resilient to the predatory behavior of anti-vax groups.” 

Say what? Predatory behavior? Sounds like a Kremlin plot.

We’ve all witnessed Gov. Eric Holcomb and key members of his administration conistently stress the safety of the vaccine as well as receive the jab on camera.

What about other Republicans in the dominating General Assembly and congressional delegations? Are they going to educate and urge their constituencies to protect themselves, their families, and their communities?