Eric Holcomb

Gov. Eric Holcomb, seen here in August at the Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion, is encouraging all eligible Hoosiers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Gov. Eric Holcomb has two simple words of advice for Hoosiers as COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths once again surge amid the holiday season — "Get vaccinated."

"I'm convinced that the vaccine works," Holcomb said Monday in an exclusive interview with The Times. "The numbers are compelling, no doubt about it. You'd have to ignore them to come to a different conclusion."

The Republican noted state data show that in recent weeks unvaccinated individuals accounted for more than 80% of COVID-19 infections, more than 90% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 3 out of 4 deaths caused by COVID-19.

The Indiana Department of Health is urging all Hoosiers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, particuarly the more infectious delta variant

Since the start of the pandemic, including the period before a vaccine was available, unvaccinated Hoosiers comprised 97.7% of COVID-19 infections, 99.96% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 99.98% of COVID-19 deaths, according to the Indiana Department of Health.

"I didn't coin this phrase but this is, pretty much, a pandemic of the unvaccinated that we find ourselves in right now," Holcomb said.

And it's getting worse.

Data released Monday by the Indiana Department of Health tallied 3,080 new COVID-19 infections Sunday, along with an average of 14 deaths a day over the past week due to COVID-19.

There also were 2,496 Hoosiers hospitalized because of the coronavirus on Sunday. That's an 81.4% increase from the 1,376 hospitalized three weeks ago and seemingly headed toward the all-time state record of 3,460 COVID-19 hospital patients set on Nov. 30, 2020.

The governor said he hopes Hoosiers aren't waiting for something bad to personally happen to themselves, their family or a close friend before choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, because such stories already are legion.

"I get out and about, and everywhere I go what I hear are these kind of heartbreaking stories of, 'No, they weren't vaccinated,'" Holcomb said.

Instead, Holcomb is counting on Hoosiers using common sense, looking at the efficacy of the vaccine over the danger of doing nothing and making the right decision to get vaccinated.

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"What we have to do, and myself included, is try to positively persuade more people to get vaccinated because of the compelling numbers," he said. "I'd be betting on the team that wins 80% to 90% of the time, not 10%."

Holcomb received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in March during a mass vaccination event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He said he recently got a second, booster dose of the J&J vaccine, in accordance with federal recommendations.

The governor said Indiana has sufficient supply of all three vaccine brands, including the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, to meet the demand, including Hoosiers getting booster shots to strengthen their protection against the coronavirus.

On the other hand, Holcomb observed the state is running out of hospital beds, and its health care workers are increasingly demoralized as the pandemic continues some 21 months after the first case was confirmed in Indiana on March 6, 2020.

In fact, the Indiana Hospital Association and several statewide medical organizations recently warned the surging number COVID-19 infections in Indiana, particularly among the unvaccinated, mean health care providers may be unable to treat everyone needing medical services in the months ahead.

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Holcomb said that if that occurs he once again will have to look at ways the state can increase hospital capacity and add health care workers to relieve some of the burden.

"We have to recognize that this is one of those long-term endeavors that we're going to have to continue to manage our way through as long as it's with us," Holcomb said.

The free COVID-19 vaccine is available to Hoosiers age 5 and up at more than 1,100 retail pharmacies, health clinics and hospitals across the state — often without an appointment.

A full list of vaccine sites is online at ourshot.in.gov.

This article originally ran on nwitimes.com.

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