SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened its mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic Friday morning.
Thousands of Hoosiers will get the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Gov. Eric Holcomb received his shot around 7:50 a.m. He was heard saying on camera that the shot didn’t hurt. Minutes after getting the vaccine, he said he felt fine. He gave reporters a thumbs up from the vehicle he was riding in.
Other officials also received the vaccine Friday morning, including IMS President Doug Boles, State Sen. Rodric Bray, State Rep. Robin Shackleford, State Sen. Greg Taylor and Paul Winters, the father of U.S. Rep. Andre Carson.
At this point, the Marion County Health Department says there are no appointments left, so no walk-up or drive-up patients will be allowed. Nearly 17,000 people have already registered with the health department to get vaccinated.
“This is truly, methodically how we’re gonna continue to slow the spread and beat COVID-19,” Holcomb during a news conference later in the morning.
“[Indianapolis Motor Speedway] is now going to be known as the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Vaccination,” the governor said of the state’s first mass vaccination site.
“We want to encourage every eligible Hoosier to get vaccinated. It’s going to help us get through this quicker,” Holcomb said. “We have sought to keep this as simple as possible. Simplicity is greater than complexity when it comes to rolling out an operation as large as vaccinating 4.5 million eligible Hoosiers, but we’re doing exactly that.”
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box spoke about the history at the Indianapolis Speedway and found it fitting that the track was playing a large role in helping Indiana fight the pandemic.
“We’re really excited to be making history here today,” Box said. “This is the first time that we’ve been able to have a mass vaccination site here in our state since this pandemic started. I think it’s fitting that we are here at this iconic site at this time where we mark the one-year history tomorrow of our first COVID positive case in the state of Indiana.”
While the pandemic has brought hardship to Indiana and the entire country, Box struck a hopeful tone.
“It is about joy. It is about our future. It is about a celebration,” she said of the vaccination clinic. “The response to this mass vaccination site has been incredible. We decided to open three days with 4,200 appointments, and within hours of decreasing our eligibility to 50 years old, we had every appointment taken up. So we decided we’d add Monday, 4,200 more appointments, and before our [communications team] could even announce it, those appointments were already taken up.”
Box said the response showed how much the vaccine means to Hoosiers.
Anyone coming to the IMS clinic is asked to come at their scheduled time and try to avoid coming earlier.
Instructions include to stay in your car the entire time. You’re asked to drive in through the main 16th Street entrance and then through the infield. After that, drive into the F1 garage area behind pit lane to get the free vaccine. Once you get the vaccine, enter the recovery area in the parking lot.
Before getting the vaccine, Boles said the goal was to get back to as “close to normal as possible.”
“And for me and Indy 500 fans, we absolutely want to have customers in the grandstands. The most we can have… and getting people vaccinated and getting the numbers to go down is going to help get us there.”
Hoosiers that came out Friday to get their vaccines said the process was ‘easy’ and they were in and out in no time.
“Very easy in and out. It was a great set up,” said Lisa Rhoads. “It’s very unique, but it’s a perfect set up for it. After having done it the way they’re pulling people through the garages, you don’t have to get out of your car.”
Kim Pearson, who also received her vaccine, agreed. “It was neat. It’s been many years since I’ve been back to the track, so you got to pull in the garages to get your shot, so it was historical and it was good.”
We spoke with Darryl Allen as he prepared to receive his COVID-19 vaccine. He said this is important to him because he lost several family members to the virus.
“I feel good about it,” he said. “I used to work here years ago, so it’s great, I mean really convenient.”
Lisa Rhoads said her entire immediate family contracted the virus. “I had COVID and it’s no fun.”
Rhoads said this is just one of several reasons she was glad to have her single-dose vaccine.
“I’m an asthmatic and so it’s very important for me to know that I’m going to have this protection going forward down the road,” she said.
The clinic hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It runs from Friday through Monday.