INDIANAPOLIS — Recent snowstorms caused some disruptions in vaccine distribution across the state, with tens of thousands of vaccine appointments needing to be rescheduled.
More reschedules may be necessary, too, as snow across the U.S. has delayed the state’s latest weekly shipment of Moderna vaccines.
But on the good news front, Indiana should see a small increase in allotment in the near future, which will allow more Hoosiers to get their shots more quickly and allow the state to expand eligibility faster, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb reported Wednesday.
As of press time, Indiana hasn’t widened its eligibility, but it hopes to be able to open vaccines to those 60-65 years old soon.
As a whole, Indiana is continuing to see consistent and rapid improvement in its COVID-19 numbers, putting the state in a place it hasn’t been since September 2020, which was the state’s best month overall before the late-2020 surge in cases started.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box opened her weekly update by noting that approximately 834,000 Hoosiers have received at least their first shot of the vaccine, while approximately 356,000 people have received both shots and are now fully immunized.
The state has scheduled more than 1.6 million vaccine appointments since the first shots started going out in mid-December, Box said, but she reminded Hoosiers that the ongoing vaccine distribution and improving COVID-19 numbers are steps in the right direction, but not a cause to relax just yet.
“The vaccine is a vital tool to our recovery from this pandemic but it’s just one tool,” Box said.
Positivity rates have plummeted in recent weeks, from higher than 16% in December to a seven-day average of 4.7% as of this week. Case numbers have dropped sharply, and new hospitalizations are at a fifth of what they were at the end of 2020.
“We also have seen another decline in the number of Hoosiers hospitalized with COVID symptoms,” Box said. “Our daily hospital admissions are just over 100, which is a vast improvement from 500 we saw in late November and early December.”
Box also reported that the state will be updating its long-term care data again, adding 660 deaths that have occurred but that were not attributed to facilities across the state.
The deaths already have been accounted for in the statewide total but were not reflected to nursing homes. Box said numerous facilities had missed reporting one or two deaths, about 30 facilities had under-reported six to 10 deaths, and “a handful” missed more than 10 deaths.
Indiana State Health Department Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver provided an update on vaccines, starting by noting that inclement weather this week caused more than 40,000 vaccine appointments to have to be canceled and rescheduled.
More vaccine appointments likely will need to be rescheduled, as the state has seen a delay in receiving its next shipment of Moderna vaccines.
Clinics will be trying to reschedule people as soon as possible, either by booking more slots on available days or opening on days that the clinics were supposed to be closed, in order to fit everybody in.
Second doses of the vaccine are typically supposed to be received about 3-4 weeks after the first doses, but Weaver said people should aim to get them within 42 days of the first. Even people who miss than 42-day window are still encouraged to get their second shots and not attempt to “start over,” as the first shot still will provide effective coverage.
More than 60% of people in eligible populations — people 65 and older, health care workers and first responders — already have received or registered to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which Weaver called “an incredible uptake.”
Health care workers and first responders have had the highest response rate, with 68% of eligible people opting to take the vaccine. Hoosiers 80 and older have signed up at a rate of 57%, those in their 70s are taking the shot at 65%, and those 65-70 have responded with 56% uptake.
In response to previous questions about how many vaccines have gone to waste, Weaver reported that number to be “minimal” with just 172 doses thrown out from 1.3 million total.
Clinics have avoided waste by keeping waiting lists and calling backup recipients to be vaccinated if someone who was signed up either doesn’t show or cancels. That’s led to minimal waste across the state.
“Our wasteage is about 1/100th of a percent, and the credit goes to our vaccine clinics and all the hard work they are doing to ensure doses get to someone who needs it,” Weaver said.
Vaccine allotments haven’t changed dramatically and, due to weather complications, Indiana is not yet expanding its vaccine eligibility to those 60-65 years old.
After that group, people in their 50s will become incrementally eligible for shots, as well as people of any age with five major comorbidities, including kidney issues and active cancers, notably blood cancers.