INDIANA — Hoosiers age 65 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, following action Monday by the Indiana State Department of Health. That expansion means 357,000 additional Hoosiers will be eligible to receive the shots.
The move comes two weeks after doses were opened to those 70 and older, and a representative of the state health department said Monday that about 60% of the 700,000 in this group have been scheduled for the vaccine. While those age 60 and older make up 22.5% of the state’s population, they account for 64.1 % of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 93.3 % of virus deaths, the health department reports.
Eligible Hoosiers — which also includes health care workers and first responders — can sign up for an appointment at www.ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211. Residents of long-term care facilities also are eligible and being scheduled through a partnership with local pharmacies.
But even as access opens to more residents, vaccine supply remains limited, prompting local health officials to remind people to wait their turn and to turn some people away when they show up before they are eligible.
That’s what happened Saturday at the vaccination site at Lewis and Clark Parkway in Clarksville, where over 700 additional appointments were opened for scheduling last week after the health department received additional doses of the vaccine.
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said that while it is required for a person to register for an appointment to be vaccinated, the site did have some walk-ins they were able to accommodate. There were others — who weren’t 70 or older, a first responder or a health care worker — “who unfortunately didn’t meet the criteria and we had to turn away,” he said. He estimated that about 25 to 30 people who were not eligible tried to get vaccinated.
A social media post by the Clark County Health Department on Monday reflected the frustration of health care workers and stressed the importance of people seeking the vaccine only when they qualify.
“OK Folks — Let’s get serious here for a minute. We, at the county, don’t make the rules about who is eligible for the vaccine,” the post reads. “The State makes those decisions after looking at tons of data. They are choosing to vaccinate individuals at the highest risk — those that data has shown are the ones with the more serious cases: the ones who end up in the hospital, the ones most likely to die. Sure there are outliers but the decision makers are following the data. With that being said:
“At the vaccination sites we are seeing a substantial lack of morality. People are lying about their residence, lying about their job location or duties, and yes, even lying about their age as they hand us their driver’s license. Some have been turned away. Some have been caught only after sending their less-able-to-lie-convincingly co-workers to the site after they were successful.”
The post also states that people who are trying to get vaccinated ahead of their turn should “STOP. Just STOP.” it reads, “If you are taking a vaccine away from a person, or an area that you were not ‘counted’ in, someone else is unable to get vaccinated. Someone who has a higher risk of serious consequences. We are seeing it. We are living it. Be kind. Be honest. Be safe.”
The Floyd County Health Department posted on social media over the weekend, reminding residents that vaccinations at the Floyd County community mass vaccination site can only be given to people who have registered online or by phone and who meet the current state criteria.
In Clark County, Yazel said that even with the extra appointments opened over the weekend, the health department site had some slots unfilled. Those doses will be added to this week’s supply of 600 for any eligible residents. He said these open slots show that progress has been made in moving through the first groups, which may have contributed to the state expanding the age to 65.
“We had some open spots on Saturday with that surplus [that] tell us it’s probably time to move to that next tier,” he said, adding that “I commend the state for responding almost immediately because I think that wasn’t just us, that was happening at several places, so I think that’s what they used as their guideline to move to the next tier.”
Vaccinations began the week of Dec. 14 at hospitals responsible for the initial immunizations — including Clark Memorial Health in Jeffersonville and Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany — and were administered first to frontline health care workers before opening to others in health care and first responders.
On Jan. 6, the state gave authorization for the first age-based vaccinations to begin the following week for those 80 and older, and the health departments in Clark and Floyd counties opened community mass vaccination sites to help accommodate that and subsequent eligible populations.
Brian Cox, director of Emergency Management at Baptist Health Floyd, confirmed that between Dec. 17 and Jan. 31, the drive-thru clinic at the hospital had administered 13,183 total doses — 3,948 of which were second doses. Both the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require a second dose. As of Monday, the hospital had 2,545 appointments scheduled from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7.
Clark Memorial Health Director of Pharmacy Lance Ballard confirmed that just under 17,000 doses have been administered at the hospital site since Dec. 14, some of which included second doses. From the time period of Jan. 31 through Feb. 6, all 2,819 available appointments have been scheduled.
The Floyd County Health Department community site has 1,315 appointments scheduled for this week. LifeSpring Health Systems in Jeffersonville has all 100 of its appointments booked for the week, for a total of 300 doses it has received over the past three weeks.
Yazel said it will be hard to predict right now when the next age group will open up, but that he’s confident in the state’s process.
“We’re going to get all the vaccine supply we have out and keep watching,” he said. “When we notice that there are open spots again, that tells us we’ll be through the 65 and older crowd and we’ll wait to hear what our next tier is.”
He said after the 60 and older population can get taken care of “we need to focus on people with high-risk medical conditions and some of our critical infrastructure workers and teachers and things like that.
“As soon as we can get through those populations, I think we’ll be really well-positioned to move forward with the general public and I think we’ll see our cases and our hospitalizations go way down.”
State health officials also reported Monday a total of 628,391 positive cases identified, 1,733 of which are new. In Clark County, the total is 11,206 cases, 52 new, and in Floyd County, 6,699 cases, 18 new.
There have been 9,613 deaths attributed to the virus statewide, 149 in Clark County and 118 in Floyd. The seven-day positivity rate for unique individuals at the state level is 16.7%, with Clark County at 20.7% and Floyd at 15.8%.