Indiana to widen COVID-19 vaccine eligibility

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that the state will start to roll out COVID-19 vaccines by age group later this week.

Starting 9 a.m. Friday, Hoosiers ages 80 years or older will be able to go to or call 211 to schedule an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine at one of 55 hospital-run vaccination sites or county health departments across the state.

People ages 80 or older are particularly vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19, making up about 3.8% of the state’s population but 52% of the more than 8,300 deaths from COVID-19 in Indiana, state health officials said.

As more vaccines become available, vaccinations will be opened up to people ages 70 or older, followed by people ages 60 or older, Holcomb said. The timeline, however, for when each successive age group will be eligible to get vaccinated is not yet known.

“By opening the vaccine to those who are 80 or older, then adding people in their 70s and 60s when vaccine supplies allow us to expand, we can best protect the populations that account for 93% of our COVID-19 deaths,” said Dr. Kristina Box, who is the state health commissioner.

Each county will have a vaccination site.

The Jackson County Health Department is expecting the first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine next week with distribution starting at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Those who are eligible to preregister for the vaccine are first responders (fire, law enforcement, emergency medical services, reservists and volunteers) who have in-person contact with the public, coroners, funeral directors who have in-person contact with infectious material and licensed and unlicensed health care workers who have in-person contact with patients or infectious material in any health care setting.

Eligible individuals should receive an invitation and registration link from their employer, professional association or the State of Indiana (Indiana State Department of Health, Professional Licensing Agency, Family and Social Services Administration, Department of Homeland Security or another state agency). If you meet one of these qualifications, be patient and make sure your email is updated with Indiana Professional Licensing Agency and continue to check your email and spam. If you are eligible and have not received an invitation, talk to your employer.

Columbus Regional Health is currently operating a regional COVID-19 vaccination site for health care workers in Bartholomew, Jackson and Decatur counties. As of Tuesday, 741 county residents have been vaccinated, according to the ISDH.

Holcomb’s announcement came as state leaders across the country are seeking to get shots in arms more quickly as frustration mounts over the sluggish rollout of the vaccine, The Associated Press reported.

The slow rollout has been blamed on a multitude of problems, including a lack of funding and guidance from Washington, mismatches between supply and demand, a patchwork of approaches by state and local governments, distrust of the vaccine and disarray created by the holidays, according to wire reports.

More than three weeks into the vaccination campaign, just 4.8 million people in the U.S. had gotten their first shot out of 17 million doses distributed as of Wednesday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that is believed to be an undercount because of a lag in reporting, health officials are still well behind where they wanted to be.

The U.S. has an estimated 21 million health care workers and 3 million nursing home residents. The CDC reported just 429,000 people in nursing homes have been vaccinated through a partnership between the government and the CVS and Walgreens drugstore chains.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, estimated this week that between 70 and 85% of the U.S. population will need to be vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity,” a goal he said could be achieved by the start of next fall.

That means about 4.71 million to 5.72 million people in Indiana would need to get vaccinated — each requiring two doses.

As of Tuesday, a total of 1,685 Bartholomew County residents had been vaccinated, or about 2.3% to 2.8% of what Fauci said would be needed to beat back the pandemic, according to the latest figures from the Indiana State Department of Health.

Additionally, 741 people in Jackson County, 430 in Decatur County, 267 in Jennings County and 182 in Brown County have received the vaccine, state records show.