NEW: Today the Indiana Dept. of Health has issued the following statement regarding COVID-19 vaccine registration:
"High interest in COVID-19 vaccines has caused slowdowns to the state’s vaccine registration site and 211 system, but both systems are working. Hoosiers age 80 and older who are now eligible are encouraged to continue to check the sites throughout the day.
The vaccine registration site, https://ourshot.in.gov, is designed to put visitors into aholding queue when volume is high. That can contribute to longer wait times or an errormessage, but Hoosiers should be able to check back at a later time to access thesystem."
Beginning Friday, Jan. 8, Hoosiers aged 80+ can schedule an appointment to receive the first of two COVID-19 vaccine shots. To do so, visit OurShot.in.gov or call 211.
Last month, Indiana began distributing its first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare workers. The state has focused on vaccinating frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facilities so far.
On Wednesday, the state announced a revised approach to plans initially released in October.
We’ve had dozens of questions coming in to our City Limits: Coronavirus project from people asking when they will be allowed to get the vaccine.
Leon Olenick is a retired hospice chaplain and rabbi. Since retirement he’s offered pastoral counseling and runs a support group for people dealing with grief and anxiety during the pandemic. He says he wants more information on vaccine availability.
“Don't keep people in the dark," Olenick said. "Just, it's a matter of information. And at this point, with this pandemic, people need and deserve information.
He said lots of people he’s spoken to feel isolated.
Indianapolis resident Beth Williams retired from her position as a school psychiatrist at the start of the pandemic because she felt the precautions in place weren’t enough to protect her from the virus. She’s 64 years old and is a kidney donor.
“I feel like COVID has affected me greatly," Williams said. "I've not become ill. And I feel really fortunate about that. But I've also been absolutely meticulous about everything that has been indicated by the science such as wearing a mask…. And as an extrovert, it's very difficult for someone who has extroverted tendencies to, you know, live such an isolated life."
Both Olenick and Williams say they’re eager for their first COVID-19 vaccine.
Monroe County Health Administrator Penny Caudill's department has received lots of calls recently from people with questions, which is a good thing.
“It means that people are willing to take the vaccine, and that is good for us as a community," Caudill said. "And so we're very excited about that. My first response would be, please be patient.”
She says the Monroe County Health Department is following instructions from the state on who can be vaccinated first when they can move to the next steps.
On Tuesday, first responders like law enforcement, firefighters, funeral directors, and EMS began receiving emails that they could schedule their first vaccine.
In interim plans published in October, frontline healthcare workers were considered part of the second phase of vaccinations.
But on Wednesday, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box announced those plans are now outdated. Vaccine distribution will be prioritized based on age.
On Friday, people over 80 can start scheduling their vaccines. After that, invitations will be opened to people older than 70, and then older than 60.
“By taking an age-focused approach we can accomplish two tasks: protecting those at greatest risk for adverse consequences like death or hospitalization and then reaching older workers who are more likely to have co-morbidities when move into those age groups in the 60s, 65, 70 range," Box said.
Indiana has about 257,000 residents aged 80 and above, and 1.5 million older than 60.
Indiana Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver says how quickly the vaccine is expanded to these age groups will depend on if the state receives the weekly 78,000 vaccine doses expected through January, and how many appointments are made.
“We do expect to see additional healthcare workers start to sign up as well, now that the holidays are over," Weaver said.
Monroe County's Caudill says it will take time to get through healthcare workers, first responders, long-term care facilities, and now older populations.
She thinks those who fall into the 60s age groups likely won’t be eligible for the vaccine in January and they should expect an announcement later in winter about when they can get their first dose.
Most invitations for the vaccine for workers have come through licensing agencies or employers to make sure they go to people who qualify.
Beginning Friday, Hoosiers age 80 and older can begin scheduling vaccination appointments. They can do so at OurShot.in.gov or by calling 211. Weaver says that’s also where you’ll find updated information on groups eligible for the vaccine.
It will show you a map of vaccine sites nearby. You’ll be able to choose one and schedule an appointment.
For older Hoosiers who can’t schedule for themselves, a loved one can do so as long as the vaccine recipient brings a photo ID to their appointment.
Vaccine administration sites will expand to local health care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics run through local health departments. Every county will have at least one vaccine clinic.
Caudill says plans are subject to change depending on how many doses of vaccine are made available. Starting next week, Caudill says the Monroe County Health Department will receive 400 to 600 doses of the vaccine a week.
She emphasizes the department and hospitals don’t ever know for certain how many doses they’ll receive and how quickly.
"I totally get that people are frustrated by not having a lot of information because we are too," Caudill said. "But it is really kind of a day to day, you get information and you move forward with what you have."
Beth Williams says knowing a vaccine is ready gives her a lift in spirit. She’s been keeping a list of things she’d like to do once she and others have the vaccine- the first being to have her family over.
“I'm not a big crier, but I keep telling my husband ‘look out,’ because when I get that vaccine, I'm going to cry like a baby, I'm going to be so happy," she said. "It won't immediately make things all, all great, we'll still have to wear masks and, you know, be socially distanced as we are now but at least some of that fear will be removed."
Olenick says he wants to see his family too.
“But I also be with people who are suffering from this," he said. "Because having done hospice work for over 30 years, I realized when people suffer, they suffer and there's been so much, so much loss, people need contact.”
Health officials say though the vaccine is coming, people need to continue to socially distance, wear masks, and keep getting tested.