Vaccine eligibility extends to Hoosiers 45 years and older

Coronavirus
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INDIANAPOLIS —  The Indiana Department of Health announced Tuesday that Hoosiers age 45 and older are now eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine. According to a ISDH, this expansion eligibility makes the vaccine available to an additional 415,640 Hoosiers.

Additional groups will be added as more vaccine becomes available.

To schedule a vaccine, visit https://ourshot.in.gov and select a location from one of more than 400 clinics around the state. Hoosiers who do not have a computer or cell phone or those who need assistance scheduling an appointment can call 211 or contact one of Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging or AARP.

Vaccination clinics that are part of the federal vaccine program, including those at Meijer and Kroger, appear on the clinic map at https://ourshot.in.gov but are scheduled through those retailers’ platforms, not through the state centralized system.

To date, 1,276,777 first doses of vaccine have been administered and 837,233 individuals are fully vaccinated.

From the ISDH:

Who is eligible to receive vaccine?

If you are an Indiana resident and answer yes to any of these questions, you are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Are you age 45 or older?
  • Do you work or volunteer in healthcare and have (physical or close) contact or face to face interactions with patients? Examples include:
    • Inpatient, outpatient, provider office setting, nursing homes, residential care facilities, assisted living facilities, in-home services
    • This includes all clinical and non-clinical positions: clinicians, dietary, environmental services, administrators who have direct contact with patients, clergy who see patients in the healthcare setting, non-clinicians who assist in procedures, transportation staff, etc.
    • This also includes local health department staff who interact with patients at test sites, health clinics or provide direct patient care
  • Do you have exposure to COVID-19 infectious material? (Examples include cleaning of rooms or material from COVID-19 patients, performing COVID-19 testing, other exposure to infected tissue, performing autopsies or other post-mortem examinations of COVID-19 patients)
  • Are you a first responder (firefighter, police officer and sheriff’s deputy, emergency medical services, reservist and correctional officer) who is regularly called to the scene of an emergency to give medical aid?
  • Are you an educator or support staff? Examples include:
    • Teacher or staff in pre-K through high school, childcare center or Head Start and Early Start programs
    • Licensed childcare providers, including center-based and family care providers
    • Classroom aides, bus drivers, janitors, counselors, administration staff, cafeteria workers and substitute teachers

Specific groups of patients at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who are identified by their healthcare provider are also eligible. These individuals will receive a unique registration link by text or email, or may call 211 after receiving the notification:

  • Active dialysis patients
  • Sickle cell disease patients
  • Down syndrome
  • Post-solid organ transplant
  • People who are actively in treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) for cancer now or in the last three months, or with active primary lung cancer or active hematologic cancers (lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma)
  • Early childhood conditions that are carried into adulthood:
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Muscular dystrophy
    • People born with severe heart defects, requiring specialized medical care.
    • People with severe type 1 diabetes, who have been hospitalized in the past year.
    • Phenylketonuria (PKU), Tay-Sachs, and other rare, inherited metabolic disorders.
    • Epilepsy with continuing seizures, hydrocephaly, microcephaly and other severe neurologic disorders
    • People with severe asthma who have been hospitalized for this in the past year
    • Alpha and beta thalassemia
    • Spina bifida
    • Cerebral palsy
  • People who require supplemental oxygen and/or tracheostomy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, combined primary immunodeficiency disorder, HIV, daily use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, receiving tumor necrosis factor-alpha blocker or rituximab.
  • Intellectual and Developmentally Disabled individuals receiving home/community-based services. (Family and Social Services Administration will provide patient information for this community.)

Vaccination progress in Indiana and future outlook

“We’re pretty close to about 50 percent of the state’s population as a whole being eligible for the vaccine,” said Dr. Brian Dixon, Director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute.

As of Tuesday, ISDH said 852,183 people were fully vaccinated in Indiana.

“We’re definitely kind of in the top third of states in terms of progress,” said Dr. Dixon.

“The trends are really positive right now. We continue to see low rates of infection and so at this point, the more we can do to vaccinate people and expand eligibility, get additional populations vaccinated, we’ll continue to keep those numbers low,” he said.

Last week, Governor Eric Holcomb during a press conference, raised concerns that scheduling had slowed down among Hoosiers age 50-59 that are eligible for their vaccine.

“I’ll just make an appeal to those folks that are 50 to 59, step up. You’re gonna help us all get through this,” said Holcomb.

According to ISDH, as of March 10, nearly 102,300 Hoosiers ages 50 to 54 had scheduled or received a vaccine, which accounts for approximately 25% of the population in this age group.

As of Tuesday, ISDH said nearly 153,600 Hoosiers in this age range have scheduled or received a vaccine, which accounts for approximately 37% of the population in the age group.

ISDH told FOX59 the data is pulled from their centralized scheduling system, which does not include people who have been vaccinated through long-term care partnerships or federal pharmacies, so the agency said it is likely an underrepresentation.

“We had kind of a slow start but we really ramped up after the first of the year and really are, just, each week requesting more doses and getting more doses in the state,” said Dr. Dixon.

Dr. Dixon also said, “There have been a couple of surveys of populations to sort of understand people’s hesitancy to get the vaccine.”

He explained some of those younger survey participants said they would prefer the vaccines go to older populations.

“I think there’s also some hesitancy in younger populations because they feel like if they were to become infected, they would be okay, and the risk of hospitalization is lower, but it’s not zero,” Dr. Dixon said. “I think that’s the message our public health agencies are trying to get out is that the vaccine is important for everybody to get so that collectively we can be protected.”

When it comes to overall interest in getting the vaccine amongst middle-aged Hoosiers, Dr. Dixon said, “There’s not good data out yet on the uptake of the vaccine amongst middle-aged folks because they just became available or eligible to receive the vaccine.”

He also added that the uptick in people 60 and older has been “very, very good.”

“Amongst the older groups that have become eligible for the vaccine, at least two-thirds of them have some dose of the vaccine so far,” shared Dr. Dixon.

“It’s gonna take probably at least another week or two before we have better data on 50-year-olds or 45-year-olds in terms of uptake, but I imagine that the process will continue the same,” he said.

At Indiana University Health, Kristen Kelley, Director of Infection Prevention, shared a bit more on what their vaccination process has looked like so far and trends in who is coming to receive their shots.

“We could see that 80, 70 age ranges really came in in full force and we were really booked out for a long period of time,” said Kelley. “As the ages have started to drop, it seems as we are not booked out as long a period of time.”

Kelley said she also knows the increase in vaccination sites statewide since IU Health first began vaccinating Hoosiers could be a factor.

She said as new groups become eligible for the vaccine, IU Health sees bookings fill up for the short-term.

“We definitely moved from the 60 to 50 to 55 really quickly and then 45 today. We are fully booked every appointment slot is absolutely booked,” said Kelley.

“I  know last week we had some open appointments so we were getting the word out because we definitely want to be full and do as many shots as we can every day,” she added.

Right now, IU Health is nearing the 80,000 mark for how many vaccine doses they have administered. Kelley said, “We know we’re gonna hit the 100,000 mark soon, so our team members are really overjoyed and very excited about that.”

Dr. Dixon said he believes with the path Indiana is taking currently, there could be promise for reaching several milestones over the next year.

“As of right now we have about 25 percent of the entire population that has had at least one dose of the vaccine,” he said. “By that May 1 target, we could be as high as sort of 40 percent of the population having completed the series and being fully vaccinated.”

Dr. Dixon continued, “which really puts us on target to really reach the sort of lower bound of herd immunity by summer.”

“Some articles are saying that if we continue at this quick of pace, we can get there by 4th of July which is such a big American holiday. I mean what a blessing would that be,” Kelley added.

“I think the outlook for our state is very positive, especially in comparison to other states, so I definitely think that we can be on track to achieve kind of community-level protection by the fall,” Dr. Dixon said.

Dr. Dixon said, “As long as we can make progress on both vaccination and everyone is a little bit patient for a little bit longer to take some precautions against infection, we can really sort of turn the tide on the pandemic.”

Kelley said she wants to encourage people who are on the fence about getting their vaccine to sign up and get theirs.

Both Kelley and Dr. Dixon said they feel encouraged by what the future could look like if Indiana continues vaccinating at the rate it’s going.

“It’s been really encouraging to see some of the data come out of Indiana that because we’re vaccinating so fast, we’ve cut a year off the initial projections of getting to heard immunity,” said Kelley.

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