Hospital officials report steady demand for COVID-19 vaccine among Hoosier seniors

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — Since I.U. Health started giving COVID-19 vaccines for Hoosiers age 80 and older on Friday, they’ve seen a steady flow of senior citizens lining up for the shots.

“We’ve seen almost 400 seniors so far come through our clinic in the last four days,” said I.U. Health Director of Infection Prevention Kristen Kelley.  

Kelley was referring to the clinic being held at the I.U. Health Neuroscience Center, which is one of 10 vaccine sites in Marion County.

“And this is just the age group that just at the highest risk, so it really does feel like we’re doing some meaningful work here,” she said.  

The latest data from the Indiana State Department of Health shows roughly 86,000 Hoosiers age 80 and older had signed up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday afternoon.

Although the age group makes up only 4% of the Indiana’s population, it represents more than 19% of the state’s hospitalizations and more than half of the state’s deaths from the virus.

Indianapolis resident Anita Henson came to the Neuroscience Center with her husband, Don, to get the vaccine Monday. She said living in lockdown has been difficult with three generations of her family living under one roof.

“My daughter and son-in-law and my 22-year-old granddaughter all live in the same house, so it’s kind of hard for all of us,” she said. “It’s going to allow me to get out and not be cooped in all the time.”

“It’s important because so many people are dying,” Don said. “We moved up here a couple years ago to be with family, so it’ll allow that.”

“It seems like the right thing to do, and I could get in at this time so I did it,” said Speedway resident Ron Norman. “It just makes me safer, and it makes the people around me safer.”

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were being given at the I.U. Health Neuroscience Center. The vaccine being given is based on the day’s supplies. Those receiving the Pfizer vaccine need to schedule their second dose 21 days later. Those getting the Moderna vaccine need to come back in 28 days.

After some initial problems with scheduling appointments on the state’s website, Kelley says good communication has allowed for a smooth process at the clinic.

“They’re doing a great job of monitoring so they don’t overload us with people and we [don’t] have those lines you’ve seen in other states,”  Kelley said.

While appointments for Hoosiers 80 and older are still being made, it’s not clear when the process will open to those age 70 and over.  

Kelley said clinics around the state are sharing their daily numbers with state health officials in order to allow them to gauge supply and demand for the vaccine. She believes those metrics will determine when people in their 70s will be eligible to sign up. She also believes that could be a matter of weeks.

Hoosiers age 80 and older can still register at the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website. You can also sign up by calling 211. Appointments can also be made by a caregiver or loved one.

Meanwhile, vaccinations for frontline workers and those in longterm care facilities continue. The state announced Monday that 193,653 Hoosiers have received their first dose of the vaccine. Another 23,606 Hoosiers have received both rounds of the vaccine.

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