Q&A: Here’s what is known about COVID vaccines in Indiana

For The Tribune


Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has called vaccines the “light at the end of the tunnel” to the COVID-19 pandemic that has hospitalized and killed thousands of Hoosiers.

But it could be weeks or months before you can get one.

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Here’s an update on how the vaccines are being allocated and who is at the front of the line. The information came from officials at the Indiana State Department of Health at Holcomb’s weekly press briefing Wednesday.

How many Hoosiers have been vaccinated so far?

As of Monday morning, nearly 76,000 Hoosiers have received their first dose. More than 110,000 Hoosiers in total have scheduled appointments for vaccines through next Monday.

Who is getting vaccinated first?

For the first weeks (or longer), the vaccines are being dedicated to two groups: Front line health care workers, such as doctors, nurses and technicians in hospitals and clinics, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. With the exception of residents of long-term care facilities, every person receiving the vaccine right now has to attest they are a health care worker who has had exposure to patients or infectious materials. Hospitals are being instructed to verify identifications before vaccinating individuals.

How many health care workers are there in Indiana?

Indiana has about 400,000 health care workers. Officials say more than 100,000 health care providers have been invited so far this week to make an appointment for a vaccine.

How many doses are available to residents of long-term care facilities?

About 40,000 doses have been set aside so far for long-term care residents and staff. They are being vaccinated, starting this week, by health care workers from CVS and Walgreens, who are visiting their locations.

How many doses of the vaccines have been shipped to Indiana in total so far?

By the end of this week, Indiana will have been allocated 146,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 152,500 of the Moderna vaccine, Indiana health officials said.

Will Indiana continue to receive that amount going forward?

No. The initial shipment was fairly large, but Indiana health officials say the weekly allocation will be lower going forward, although they did not say how much lower. Also, the number of vaccines administered over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays was somewhat lower than in normal weeks.

When can I get vaccinated?

Unless you are a front line health care worker or resident of a long-term care facility, it could be another month or more. The state health department is sticking to a protocol or what officials call a “very intentional order of eligibility” for a vaccine. As Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana’s chief medical officer, said Wednesday, “We want to ensure we have enough vaccine before we open up vaccinations to additional groups.”

At that rate, will it be months before all of Indiana is vaccinated?

Yes. And according to a recent survey, about half of Hoosiers who were questioned said they wanted to get vaccinated. About one-third said they had reservations. In response, the state is preparing a public awareness campaign to encourage Hoosiers to get vaccinated.

What if hospitals have doses left over at the end of the day or someone doesn’t show up for an appointment?

The state health department said it has asked hospitals to have standby lists in case people who scheduled appointments are unable to keep those appointments.

What are the next groups to get vaccinated?

The state health department said it is meeting regularly with an external vaccine advisory committee to review the latest federal advisory committee guidelines and Indiana data to help make recommendations that best suit Indiana’s needs. Indiana officials did not specify which groups will get vaccinated next but said they hope to share that information in a few weeks.

What criteria are Indiana health officials taking into account when considering which groups to vaccinate next?

Officials say they are considering the following questions when deciding which group should get next in line: What is the risk of serious illness and death in that population? What is the risk of exposure to COVID-19? What is the risk of exposing others, especially vulnerable people? And how much vaccine does the state have available, and what is the safety and efficacy of that vaccine for that population?

So far, only hospitals and long-term care facilities are getting doses to administer. When will county health departments and local clinics get doses?

Indiana health officials say that probably won’t happen until the end of January, but they are communicating with local health departments to be ready in case more doses are suddenly available to a broader population.

There are some reports that teachers and others are getting vaccinated before it’s their turn. Why is that?

Indiana health officials said they have had numerous conversations with hospitals about following the state’s allocation plan. But because the doses are perishable, health officials are telling hospitals that at the end of the day, if they have any additional vaccine, even three doses, and can’t find a health care provider on hand, they can go ahead and administer the vaccine to others.

How can people keep track of how many people have been vaccinated on a running basis?

The state health department said it is launching an online vaccine dashboard that will show the number of vaccines administered in Indiana. The health department will update the dashboard each Wednesday, using data that are reported and verified from hospitals and county health departments.

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