THE LATEST: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

May 13, 2021

Health care workers received the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. The state opened registration to Hoosiers 12 and older on May 13.
Credit (Provided by Indiana Department of Health)

Indiana opened registration to all Hoosiers 16 and older on March 31. Following federal approval, the state expanded eligibility to Hoosiers 12 and older on May 13.

Who can get the vaccine right now? 

Hoosiers 12 and older. 

The state expanded to all Hoosiers 16 and older on March 31. After approval by an independent advisory committee with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state expanded to Hoosiers 12 and older on May 13. 

Though, important to note: Hoosiers younger than 18 can only get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have not been approved for children.

If I qualify to receive the vaccine, how do I sign up? 

There are two main ways to do so: go to OurShot.in.gov or call 211. About 70 public libraries, AARP and Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging may also be able to help with registration.

If you’re registering online, at the top of the page, there is a muted red bar that reads “Click here to find a vaccination site and register.” 

That will redirect you to a map, which lists vaccination sites by county. Select the one closest to you (or your loved one). And then select “Click here to register.” 

Select what group best describes you, and then register for your vaccine.

Health officials also opened state-run vaccine sites to walk-ins, though appointments are still preferred.

Can I sign up through Kroger, Meijer or Walmart?

Yes. Walmart will use the state’s registration system at OurShot.in.gov. 

But Kroger and Meijer will be using their own sign up system. Hoosiers who are eligible for vaccine appointments may schedule them through the stores’ websites – clinic.meijer.com or kroger.com/rx/guest/get-vaccinated

On Meijer’s website, you’ll fill out a brief questionnaire and then provide your zip code to select a store pharmacy providing vaccines. 

On Kroger’s website, you’ll provide a zip code to see your nearest stores. If the COVID-19 vaccine is available at that store’s pharmacy, it should be at the top of the list. But there isn’t a way to filter out stores that don’t have COVID-19 vaccines.

What if I’m immunocompromised or taking medications that affect my immune system?

The FDA guidance says you should talk to your primary care physician and make that decision with them. 

They’ll likely give you the OK, but be sure to bring up these concerns with your doctor to make an informed decision. If your doctor says it’s OK, FDA guidance says to give your vaccine provider a heads up.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

After getting vaccinated, you might have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. 

Common side effects are pain, redness, and swelling in the arm where you received the shot, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea throughout the rest of the body. 

Side effects after your second shot may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot. That’s totally normal and a sign that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days.

The CDC has some helpful guidance (and digital producer tested, the washcloth actually works) on how to help mitigate your vaccine symptoms.

Do I still have to wear a mask once I am fully vaccinated? When will we get to go back to normal?

According to the most recent guidance from the CDC, you don’t have to still wear masks once you’re fully vaccinated.

But there are some important caveats to that. 

First and foremost: you aren’t fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving the last required dose for Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. 

Second: businesses and local governments in Indiana can mandate masks. So, for example, in Indianapolis, masks are still mandated – fully vaccinated or not – in public places. 

The CDC has a pretty helpful table about activities that are safest to least safe for people who are not yet fully vaccinated. 

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How long does the vaccine take to be effective? How effective are the vaccines?

According to the CDC, a week or two.

After the first dose, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine only measured 50 percent efficacy against COVID-19. But both available vaccines measured more than 94 percent efficacy against COVID-19 after the second dose in clinical trials. 

For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you only need one shot, but the measured efficacy is a little lower than the mRNA vaccines at 66.1 percent. 

It is important to remember: flu vaccines with about 40 to 60 percent efficacy are still pretty good.

Are the new strains of COVID-19 resistant to vaccines?

Not so far. 

Indiana officials announced on Jan. 11 the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 was confirmed in the state. There are several newly identified strains including ones in California, South Africa and Brazil. 

The vaccines still protect against the new strains, and vaccine manufacturers may make adjustments or add additional doses of vaccines to protect against future strains. 

How does Indiana’s vaccine distribution compare to neighboring states?

States receive vaccines from the federal government based on population. Both Ohio and Michigan have distributed initial vaccines to more than 800,000 of their residents.

Indiana’s population is about 6.7 million Hoosiers. Ohio has 11.7 million, Michigan has just shy of 10 million people, and Kentucky has about 4.5 million. 

The state remains a little behind its Midwest neighbors. As of May 13, nearly 33 percent of Hoosiers are fully vaccinated, compared to 34.9 percent in Michigan, 35.1 percent in Kentucky, 36.6 percent in Ohio, and 36.8 percent in Michigan.

How many people need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity?

That’s actually kind of a complicated question. The Biden administration has a goal of getting 70 percent of U.S. adults at least one dose of vaccine before July 4. 

State health officials have not set a benchmark for herd immunity – other than vaccinating as many people as possible. There isn’t really a hard and fast rule, though many experts nationwide point at 75 percent to 85 percent inoculated as the threshold for COVID-19. 

If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I still need a vaccine?

The CDC recommends you do so for a few reasons: while not common, there have been some reports of reinfection after recovering from COVID-19. In fact, reinfection appears to be more likely with the new strains. The available evidence, according to the CDC, suggests most people who recover from COVID-19 would have a degree of immunity for at least three months following initial diagnosis. Some early research suggests that lasts for eight months or longer.

About 5-10 percent of participants in both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech trials included participants who had the virus previously.

What’s in the vaccines? How is Johnson & Johnson’s different?

The FDA lists 10 ingredients in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N, N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.

Basically, that’s three types of fats, cholesterol, sugar, and four types of salt (including sodium chloride, which is table salt). 

The Moderna vaccine’s ingredients are listed as: lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.

That’s four different fats, salt, sugar, tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, and acetic acid. 

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use mRNA to deliver a cheat code to your body’s immune system, without giving an inactive or a live but weakened version of the virus. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a vector-based vaccine: it contains a totally different virus than COVID-19, but it has parts of COVID-19 inserted into it, so your body can learn to respond to it. This vaccine uses adenovirus type 26, which can cause cold symptoms and pink eye. The strain in the virus is manipulated so it cannot replicate in your body to cause illness. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s ingredients are listed as: recombinant, replication-incompetent adenovirus type 26 expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein; citric acid monohydrate; trisodium citrate dihydrate; ethanol; 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HBCD); polysorbate-80; and sodium chloride.

That’s the disarmed virus, acid, two types of salt, ethanol, sugar, and polysorbate-80 – which is a pretty common emulsifier in foods to hold ingredients together.

I have had allergic reactions in the past to vaccinations – can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you’ve had allergic reactions to vaccines in the past, you should talk to your primary care provider about the vaccine. People who have had severe allergic reactions may need to be monitored after receiving the vaccine. Polyethylene glycol – which is in both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines – has been pointed to as what has triggered some anaphylaxis. 

The most common allergic reaction – especially in flu shots – are in people with egg allergies. The most common flu vaccines are developed with egg-based technology, but the FDA and CDC said common food allergies and medicines shouldn’t prevent most people from receiving the vaccine.

My doctor has suggested I get a particular version of the COVID-19 vaccine. Can I choose which one I receive?

Yes. When you sign up on OurShot.IN.gov, the vaccine offered by each provider is listed. 

Will I have to pay for the vaccine?

No. 

Vaccine providers will be able to bill insurance for a fee to administer the vaccine, but will not be able to charge you. They can seek reimbursement for uninsured patients from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Can I get or spread COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No. 

There are several different types of vaccines. Rotavirus and MMR vaccines use a live but weakened version of the virus to teach your body to develop long-term immunity to a disease. Flu and rabies shots use an inactive version of the virus, but that’s why you don’t develop long-term immunity from those viruses. 

The COVID-19 vaccine doses developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use a new type of vaccine, an mRNA vaccine. This type of vaccine has been in development for about three decades, but is only now being used for COVID-19. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines teach your cells how to make a protein – or even just a piece of a protein – that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects you from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be effective – more similar to many childhood vaccinations than getting a flu shot.

However, studies of the new vaccines only measured whether vaccinated people developed symptoms, not whether they were infected. There’s still a lot of ongoing research into whether someone who has been vaccinated can be infected with the virus and spread it to someone who is not vaccinated.

Why do we have to get a second dose of the vaccine?

If you want the full protection of the vaccine, you’ll have to get the second dose. In an FDA analysis of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, after only one dose, a little more than 50 percent of participants were still protected from the virus. But that jumped up to 95 percent after the second dose. 

That applies to the Moderna and Astra-Zeneca vaccines as well.

This story was originally published on Dec. 14, and has been updated Dec. 18, Jan. 12, Feb. 2, Feb. 10, March 2, March 8, March 21, March 23 and most recently, May 13.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.