WITZ RADIO NEWS IS AN AFFILIATE OF NETWORK INDIANA / WIBC
STATEWIDE -- If you're over 65, your turn to get the coronavirus vaccine is coming up soon.
Chief medical officer Lindsay Weaver says the state health department hopes to open registration to people over 65 sometime in the next week. People over 70 are eligible now, and more than half have made their appointments. But Weaver says more than four-thousand people couldn't get an appointment until March. She says the department is reaching out to those people directly to get them vaccinated sooner before expanding further.
President Biden announced Tuesday he's increasing states' vaccine shipments by one-sixth. For Indiana, that means an extra 13-thousand doses a week. Governor Holcomb says it's welcome news, but isn't a big enough increase to expand the eligibility pool when you spread it over 92 counties. He says Indiana won't implement mass vaccination sites, but will continue to administer the vaccine locally. Holcomb says that system has been working smoothly, and health commissioner Kristina Box adds many senior citizens would be unwilling or unable to travel to a single, centralized location far from home.
Weaver says Indiana will continue to prioritize the vaccine by age group. She says nine out of 10 COVID deaths and nearly two-thirds of the hospitalizations have been people over 60, and those people need to be at the front of the line. Box says the department has called some local health departments who have ignored state guidelines to vaccinate younger residents to explain why that can't happen. She says every dose going to someone younger is one less dose available for someone the odds say is more at risk. And she says it's unfair to people elsewhere whose health departments are playing by the rules.
The state is expanding the locations where those eligible can get vaccinated, with some Kroger, Meijer and Wal-Mart pharmacies administering the vaccine. Kroger and Meijer will make vaccination appointments themselves, while Wal-Mart will work through the state's 2-1-1 phone system and the online appointment portal at ourshot.in.gov.
Holcomb is extending the state's public health emergency through the end of February, but is modifying the gathering limits linked to counties' number and rate of new cases. Instead of a cap of 25 people for high-risk counties, the limit will now be 25-percent of the gathering space's capacity. Right now, that limit applies to every Indiana county. But eight counties rated at moderate risk will be allowed up to half capacity if they maintain that status for another week.