Indiana health officials hope to open COVID-19 vaccine to ages 65 and up soon

Coronavirus

A nurse prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

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INDIANAPOLIS — More than 470,000 Hoosiers have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday. During a weekly briefing, state health officials said they are working to expand appointments and vaccine sites.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said she hopes eligibility will open up to people ages 65 and up within the next week.

“For now, we want to ensure we get Hoosiers ages 70 and older appointments as quickly as possible. We are just as anxious to expand eligibility criteria,” she said.

The Indiana State Department of Health says they have heard from eligible seniors who cannot get an appointment until after March 1. ISDH has identified about 4,500 people age 70 and older whose first dose appointment is scheduled after March 1. Partners at 2-1-1 will be reaching out to those people to help them schedule an earlier appointment.

Kroger, Walmart and Meijer will begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine across Indiana with the guidance of the Indiana State Department of Health, officials announced Wednesday.

The stores’ pharmacies will follow the eligibility guidelines set by the Indiana State Department of Health, which currently offers vaccinations to any Hoosier age 70 and older, long-term care residents, first responders who have in-person contact with the public and healthcare workers who have in-person contact with patients or infectious material in any healthcare setting.

Kroger and Meijer are using their own online systems to sign up for the vaccine. Walmart is using the state system through ourshot.in.gov or by calling 2-1-1.

Eric Halvorson, spokesperson for Kroger, said they will have about 100 doses – per pharmacy – per week.

“As soon as more are available, we will put the pharmacists to work and put the shots in arms,” he said

As of Wednesday, Indiana has received 809,400 doses of vaccine. Dr. Weaver said over 700,000 Hoosiers have already received a vaccine or have scheduled an appointment to receive their first dose of vaccine.

The state expects to receive additional doses from the federal government. Health officials acknowledge it is still a small increase.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said ISDH is hearing reports of local health departments opening vaccine appointments to people who are not eligible yet.

“This puts confusion across the state and puts those who are at risk of being hospitalized or dying from this disease in a position where they might not be able to get the vaccine that they are eligible for,” she said.

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