Experts answer questions about vaccine eligibility, availability

Coronavirus
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INDIANAPOLIS — Many Hoosiers have directed COVID-19 vaccine-related questions to FOX59 to ask the experts. Several have reached out asking when they will be eligible for vaccination based on health condition, and if there will be enough vaccines when it’s their time.

Right now in Indiana, anyone over the age of 70 is eligible to register and get vaccinated.
The state is prioritizing who gets the vaccine first based on the work environment, age and underlying health conditions.

“The thing to realize with age is that age alone is a very strong risk factor for both hospitalization and death related to COVID-19. So when we think about all of the different medical conditions that can create risk factors for patients, age is one of those factors to also be considered,” said Regenstrief Institute Research Scientist Professor of Medicine Dr. Michael Weiner.

The prioritization is based on the data collected since the pandemic began. But Dr. Weiner say the age-based priority plan comes with both pros and cons.

“There will always be some individuals who don’t completely fit the risk profile, even though they may need an age criterion,” said Dr. Weiner.

He added that there may also be some older individuals who might be healthier, putting them at a lower risk.

When it comes to the number of vaccines available and when, that’s up to the state.

“Whatever vaccine we are providing now, we usually are given a week or two week timeframe that that vaccine has to last through,” said Fisher Health Department Public Health Director Monica Heltz.

For example, if they are given 600 doses for the week, that’s how long it can last, and that’s how many can be vaccinated.

The state is also tracking what’s allocated so it can be doubled for the second dose as Hoosiers begin to worry what may be available when their time comes.

“The state is in charge of all of the inventory and all of the send out of the doses. So, there is not a way for a hospital to order their own,” said Heltz.

Every health department is opening sites and vaccinating based on the number of doses received. They were all required to submit a vaccine distribution plan to the state.

Starting next week, Fishers plans to open a mass vaccination clinic where they can perform more vaccines in a day once they become more available. Marion County has yet to announce a mass vaccination clinic but is continuously receiving doses.

As the state continues with an age-based priority list, some experts say distribution needs to be ramped up and more widespread.

“I think in the long run it would be useful to try to increase that flexibility and accessibility maybe by considering additional channels for where the vaccine can be received,” said Dr. Weiner.

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