INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers age 50 and older now can receive vaccinations for COVID-19, the Indiana State Department of Health announced Wednesday.

The expansion in vaccine eligibility came just one day after the vaccine was made available to those age 55 and up.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb addressed the expansion during his weekly briefing Wednesday.

Holcomb said that just Tuesday, 82,000 Hoosiers in the age 50-54 cohort signed up for a shot. Another 27,000 who were age 60 and above or already eligible also signed up.

“That is really working our way toward that light at the end of the tunnel,” Holcomb said.

“And now … as of seconds ago … were opening it up to age 50 and above,” Holcomb added. “That’s a big cohort when you think about 858,000 (Hoosiers) being 50-59 … who would be eligible.”

Holcomb noted that with the approval of a new one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the state is hosting mass vaccination sites, including one this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As of Wednesday, 4,200 Hoosiers had signed up to receive a vaccination at the Speedway site on Friday, and another 3,000 had registered to receive a shot Saturday.

Holcomb said he too would “walk the walk and not just talk the talk and practice what I preach and be an example.” On Friday he will be at the raceway to receive his vaccination, he said.

Holcomb noted that county color-coded metrics continue to show the progress that is happening across the state.

“That’s because of multiple factors, including our own actions. But when we’re looking at today a report of 3.5% seven-day average positivity rate, it means we’re continuing to move in the right direction,” Holcomb said.

He noted that Saturday, March 6, marks one year to the date of the state’s first reported case of COVID-19.

“And so, yes, we have been through a lot together. And we’re going to get out of this together. And we’re pointed in that direction,” Holcomb said. “I count my lucky stars every day that we’re having this discussion about hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers getting vaccinated. And we’re not waiting seven more years. This is a really good thing.”

Holcomb said the state will continue to take an age-eligibility approach and “methodically just mow our way through this to drop it down ultimately to 40.”

Holcomb said that while specific details have not yet been provided, he received word Tuesday evening that the federal government will provide doses of vaccine to the federal pharmacy program for teachers to become prioritized across the country.

“So what that means to our teachers is, obviously if you’re 50 or older and you’re a teacher, you’re age-eligible to go to any of our sites. … But also now … the federal government will fold in their doses, their appointment regimen and scheduling process at Meijer, at Kroger, at Walmart.”

Indiana State Health Commissioner Kris Box reflected on the past year and the progress that has been made.

“It’s been a year of trials and of heartbreak for so many Hoosiers, but it’s also been a year that has shown us how resilient and how resourceful we can be as a state,” she said.

“A year ago there was no testing available for COVID-19. We built that from scratch and now have nearly 300 testing sites across the state of Indiana, having done more than 8 million tests for more than 3 million Hoosiers,” she added.

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