INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s age-based approach to expanding availability of vaccinations for COVID-19 is working, Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said March 3.
Weaver’s comments came shortly after the Indiana State Department of Health announced Hoosiers age 50 and older now can receive the shot for COVID-19. The expansion in availability came just one day after the vaccine was made available to those age 55 and up.
“This week nearly 860,000 additional Hoosiers became eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine. That includes more than 446,00 people ages 55 to 59 and another 412,000 ages 50-54, effective this afternoon,” Weaver said during Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly briefing.
“Already nearly 125,000 people age 55-59 have scheduled or received a vaccine.”
Weaver said more than 8,000 people had already registered to receive a vaccine at the mass vaccination clinic taking place this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and nearly 3,200 had registered for upcoming mass vaccination clinics at Ivy Tech in Sellersburg and at the University of Notre Dame.
“We still have slots open so if you’ve been waiting to get the vaccine, please sign up. If you have a future appointment and are moving it to one of our mass vax locations, or another clinic as we continue to expand our vaccine site schedules, please remember to cancel your original appointment so others can get signed up,” she added.
Indiana’s mass vaccination clinics started March 6-7 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A clinic also will be held March 12 and 13 at Ivy Tech Communioty College in Sellersburg and on March 26 and 27 at the Univeristy of Notre Dame. Weavers said the state also is working with the City of Gary to set up a mass vaccination clinic on the west side of the city on March 20 and 21.
“These expansions are possible because of the incremental increases we have seen in our Pfizer and Moderna allocations, as well as the arrival of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” Weaver said.
“Indiana is receiving 145,000 doses of Pfizer and 128,000 doses of Moderna this week. This includes both first and second doses. This week we also have received just under 54,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which includes 21,000 doses we received on Tuesday for use at our mass vaccination clinics. The rest of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be distributed in coordination with both our current and new vaccine partners across the state.”
Weaver described the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as “a safe, highly effective vaccine” that requires just one dose to provide protection from COVID-19.
“This allows us to more easily host mass vaccination clinics, like those planned at our northern, central and southern sites this month. This is a different type of vaccine than the ones made by Pfizer and Moderna. It works by using a harmless virus to prompt your body to create antibodies to COVID-19,” she said.
“What’s most important to understand is that all three vaccines are highly effective and successful at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. And those are the results we want to see with any vaccine. Our recommendation to Hoosiers is to get whatever vaccine is available as soon as you are eligible to get it. We are in a race between the vaccine and the variants and we want the vaccine to win.”
Noting this week’s expansion of vaccine eligibility, Weaver said Hoosiers age 50 to 59 are 30 times more likely to die of COVID 19 than people age 20 to 29.
“Now that we have opened up eligibility to Hoosiers age 50 and older, many people are wondering who is next. Our external advisory committee met on Monday to review the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and discuss next steps. The committee’s consensus was to continue to open eligibility based primarily on age, because data show that the older you are, the greater your risks are of hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” she said.
Weaver said Indiana will continue to expand eligibility by age group incrementally down to age 40 as vaccine supplies permit.
“We also know that when we are able to vaccinate people age 40 and older, we will have captured 91 percent of Hoosiers who fall into the CDC’s list of high risk comorbidities. Once you add in the Hoosiers age 16 and older who are eligible based solely on specific comorbidity that we have already added, the percent of all Hoosiers with comorbidities that we have made eligible is even higher.”
This week the state began to send invitations to sign up to get the vaccine to Hoosiers with sickle cell disease, down syndrome, actively on dialysis, solid organ transplant recipients, and Hoosiers actively receiving treatment for cancer now or within the last three months.
“If this describes you or a loved one and you have not yet received a message do not fret. These will continue to be sent over the next couple of weeks as your providers input your names and information into the system. It is appropriate to check in with you provider to make sure your information is getting submitted,” Weaver said.
“We will also continue to look at and add other comorbidities with increased risk and incorporate them as vaccine supplies allow as we continue to move through the age groups.”
Weaver noted that opening vaccine to more Hoosiers is solely dependent on the availability of vaccine.
“We have been told not to expect additional Johnson and Johnson vaccine for the next couple of weeks. So our plans, apart from the mass vaccination clinics, will depend on the supply of Pfizer and Moderna,” Weaver said.
But, she emphasized, the state’s approach is working.
“It is being driven by by data. And we will stay the course and we will continue our work to reduce hospitalizations and save lives in Indiana,” Weaver said.
Holcomb announced that Hoosiers ages 50 and up are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine one day after the state expanded the vaccine age limit to 55 and up. The earlier announcement prompted 82,000 people in that age group to sign up, Holcomb said March 3. Another 27,000 Hoosiers who were older and/or health care workers also signed up, he said.
“That is really working our way to the light at the end of the tunnel,” Holcomb said.
Ages 50-59 represent 858,000 Hoosiers who are eligible. The FDA emergency approval of a third vaccine Feb. 27 has allowed for upcoming mass vaccinations, such as the one at the Indianapolis Speedway, Holcomb said.
Hoosiers can register for a vaccination appointment by going to http://ourshot.in.gov and going near the bottom of the section titled “Who is eligible to receive vaccine?” to the “Click here” link. Hoosiers can sign up for an appointment inside and outside their county of residence.