Indiana lowered the age requirement for COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday to include anyone over 60 as the state continues to expand eligibility based on age rather than in accordance with federal guidelines on vaccinating teachers and other essential workers.
The state lowered the age requirement for vaccinations to include those between the ages of 60 and 64, officials said. Now, residents age 60 and older, as well as health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities and first responders are eligible to be vaccinated under the state's rollout.
The Indiana State Department of Health noted that nearly 63,000 people scheduled a vaccination appointment in the first three hours of the expanded eligibility on Tuesday.
Also new Tuesday, Indiana officials said that only individuals who live in the state and meet the eligibility criteria can get vaccinated at Indiana clinics effective immediately, with clinics directed to verify eligibility.
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"This will ensure that doses allocated to Indiana go to Hoosiers. All clinics have been reminded to verify eligibility prior to administering a vaccine," state officials said. "Out-of-state residents who received their first dose in Indiana can still receive their second dose at the same clinic."
Indiana health officials announced earlier this month that the eligibility age would be lowered "as soon as possible," continuing to sidestep federal recommendations for vaccine rollout and delay the timeline for teachers and other essential workers to become eligible for COVID-19 shots.
Hoosiers aged 50 to 59, as well as those under age 50 who suffer from certain comorbidities, will be on deck, the state health department’s chief medical officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said on Feb. 10, although there were no specific timelines in place for when new eligibility expansions will take effect.
“After we reach age 60, when we have enough vaccine and have vaccinated an appropriate portion of the 60 to 65 age group, we will then incrementally expand eligibility,” Weaver said, noting it will take time to vaccine the group that includes some 432,000 people.
Indiana officials have based shot eligibility on age rather than moving up teachers and other essential workers as other states have done. They cite statistics that those ages 60 and older represent 93% of Indiana’s COVID-19 deaths and 64% of hospitalizations, arguing that vaccinating those people will have the biggest impact.
Looking ahead at the 50 and older population, the state's top health officials maintained the age group makes up just over 35% of Indiana's population, but accounts for 80% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 97.6% of deaths.
The course of action is in contradiction to guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, which place teachers ahead of those 65 to 74 years old, along with grocery store and public transit workers, and others.
“We’re being very methodical about this,” Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said earlier this month. “The way that we’re scheduling appointments here is accommodating, both to the consumer — the person wanting to get the shot in their arm — and our supply.”
Health officials reported Tuesday that 31,589 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the last 24 hours. A total of 12,007 first doses and 19,582 second doses were given over that period, officials said.
In all, 905,236 Indiana residents have received a first dose of vaccine and 459,603 are fully vaccinated with both doses, officials said.
Indiana health officials also reported on Tuesday 716 new cases of coronavirus and 44 additional deaths, lifting totals to 657,037 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 12,025 deaths since the pandemic began.