Indiana State officials announced they would open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to Hoosiers age 60-64 next, but the move won’t come until more vaccine is available.
State officials said the following group to be vaccinated would be Hoosiers age 50-59 and Hoosiers younger than 50 with certain comorbidities. No timetable was given for when Hoosiers 50-59 would begin receiving vaccinations. Hoosiers age 50-64 cannot schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, as of press time. Teachers were not included in either group, despite calls from educators, superintendents and others to grant them eligibility.
During a Feb. 10 virtual press briefing, state health officials said Hoosiers age 60-64 would not be granted eligibility for at least one more week. Currently, Hoosiers 65 and older, along with health care workers, long-term care residents and first responders who are regularly called to the scene of an emergency to render medical assistance, are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
According to data from the Indiana Dept. of Health, 57 percent of Hoosiers 80 and older; 64 percent of Hoosiers 70 and older; 55 percent of Hoosiers age 65-69; and 66 percent of health care workers and first responders have received one or both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, excluding those inoculated by CVS, Walgreens and other private companies through federal programs.
State health officials said they want to ensure all currently eligible Hoosiers are able to receive a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before they open eligibility to more Indiana residents. The state is allotted an estimated 100,000 vaccines each week from the federal government, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said. State health officials say limited COVID-19 vaccine allotments are the only thing preventing more Hoosiers from being vaccinated.
“We have 290 sites now with the opportunity to expand that three or four times,” Box said during the briefing, adding that the state’s mobile vans could serve as additional sites as soon as the state has enough vaccine.
State health officials estimate another 160 vaccination sites in Indiana may vaccines as soon as Friday through a federal program that utilizes pharmacies and other private companies.
The State of Indiana has chosen to prioritize its oldest residents, after it first vaccinating health care workers and long-term care residents. State health officials argue that by vaccinating the oldest Indiana residents, the state would prevent the most deaths and hospitalizations. Since adopting the approach and administering vaccinations, daily deaths and hospitalizations have rapidly decreased, as have daily COVID-19 cases.
Hoosiers age 50 and older account for 35.3 percent of the state’s population and represents 80 percent of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and 97.6 percent of the state’s deaths.
Now, via a determination from the Indiana Dept. of Health’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, it has chosen to vaccinate Hoosiers age 50-59. By vaccinating Hoosiers age 50 and older, the state will offer eligibility to 82 percent of Indiana residents with high-risk conditions, such as COPD, heart failure, coronary artery disease, Type II diabetes and obesity, according to state health officials.
State officials estimates 51,000 Hoosiers younger than 50, with certain conditions will be contacted by their health care provider to arrange an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination. Those who will be considered include active dialysis patients, those with Down Syndrome, post-solid organ transplant recipients, sickle cell disease patients and people who are actively in treatment for cancer now or in the last three months, or active primary lung cancer or active hematologic cancers, lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma.
“We know that these categories do not include all Hoosiers who have conditions that could put them at greater risk from COVID,” IDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said during the briefing. “But we are working to expand to those most at risk as quickly as our vaccine supplies allows us to do so.”
And though the state’s COVID-19 metrics are trending downward, state health officials said it is crucial Hoosiers continue practicing proven mitigation efforts to continue slowing the spread of the new coronavirus.
“COVID-19 is still out there, and we need to stay alert,” Box said. “We have now seen more than 930 cases of the U.K. variant nationally, across 34 states, including 12, now, here in the State of Indiana. Several states are also reporting cases of the South African and the Brazil variants.”
All of the new variants are more infections, health officials say, which underscores the continued importance of wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and other safety measures.