INDIANA (WLFI) - The Indiana State Department of Health has lowered the vaccination eligibility twice this week, down to those who are 50 years of age and older. However, the state is still leaving essential workers out of vaccination based on their occupation.
The only occupations the state is allowing to be vaccinated at ISDH-run clinics are health care workers and first responders. Indiana is one of ten states that is not vaccinating teachers and school staff at the state level.
ISDH said this in its most recent press release announcing the lowering of the vaccination age to 50:
"Due to limited vaccine supplies nationally, Indiana has prioritized healthcare workers, first responders and those who are most vulnerable in its vaccine rollout. Individuals age 50 and older account for just over 35 percent of the state’s population but represent 80 percent of the COVID-19 hospitalizations and 98 percent of all COVID-19 deaths."
President Joe Biden announced this week that he wants all state to be vaccinating school workers this month. This means educators can get their vaccine at Kroger, Walmart and Meijer pharmacies in Indiana.
"We're interacting with the public every single day," said a local restaurant manager who spoke to News 18 anonymously.
She shared what it's been like to run a restaurant during a pandemic.
"I never know what kind of day I'm going to have," she said. "Some days are really smooth and it goes really easy and some days it's really busy and a lot of people will yell at me or my staff about mask wearing."
She said the last year has been one of dodging many punches. She was laid off for a month at one point, then brought back to help get their carry out and delivery services up and running, which she said had some trial and error. She said they have had a lot of help and guidance from the Tippecanoe County Health Department about how to get their in house dining protocols up and running safely. However, there are still challenges.
"A lot of restaurants are not really built for social distancing or really even body space," she said. "There's a lot of houses that have small back-of-houses. And then I have a tape measure and then if we have to move tables around because sometimes we have a group come in and we don't have a table that fits that many people."
She said they even have protocol in place for every type of symptom and symptom cluster that may arise in her staff. She said they are very strict about only bringing people in to work who feel healthy.
Food service workers aren't the only ones being left out. The CDC includes transportation workers, grocery workers, postal workers and child care givers under the essential worker umbrella. Our anonymous restaurant worker believes those who are interacting with the public most should be prioritized to get the vaccine in Indiana.
"Looking at essential workers and the people who have been working with the public specifically, I think that they have a higher likelihood to be exposed. We could also accidentally spread it if we end up being asymptomatic," she said.
Having adequate supply of the vaccine has been the main thing holding the state back from allowing more people to get the vaccine. Governor Holcomb has said their main priority for vaccination has been age since that has been the biggest determinant of COVID death rates in Indiana.
With the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, hopefully Indiana will be able to open up the vaccine to more people sooner.
Indiana is one of the last Midwestern states to allow teachers to get the vaccine at its state-run clinics. Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Michigan all had the vaccine available to teachers by mid-February.
Our anonymous food service worker hopes customers will remember to be kind as they try to create a safe environment for them to come and enjoy a meal.
"At the end of the day, we are human and we are just doing our job," she said. "We want people to come in and have a good and safe experience at our restaurant."