Winter storm delays Indiana COVID-19 vaccine expansion plans

A winter storm that coated Indiana with heavy snow has disrupted thousands of coronavirus vaccine appointments and delayed the state's timeline for expanding shots to additional populations.

Posted: Feb 18, 2021 9:40 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A winter storm that coated Indiana with heavy snow has disrupted thousands of coronavirus vaccine appointments and delayed the state's timeline for expanding shots to additional populations.

More than 80 clinics around the state closed due to the weather, and upwards of 43,000 vaccine appointments will need to be rescheduled, the state health department’s chief medical officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver announced Wednesday.

Most clinics did not remove vaccines from their freezers ahead of the winter weather, which spared doses from being wasted, Weaver said.

Vaccine shipments to Indiana were also interrupted, health officials said. By Wednesday, the state still had not received its weekly allocation of Moderna vaccines.

As a result, Indiana won't yet expand vaccine eligibility beyond those aged 65 and older. Health officials said they hope to make shots available to the next age group — the state's 432,000 60- to 64-year-olds — as early as next week, once shipments get back on schedule.

“We will see how the weather continues to impact our shipments, but hopefully we will be able to expand as soon as sometime next week,” Weaver said, emphasizing that the state will need a “large influx” of vaccine before further widening eligibility to the 858,000 Hoosiers aged 50 and above.

There is still no timeline in place for Indiana's teachers and other essential workers to become eligible for COVID-19 shots, however.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Indiana should be getting a “small increase” in vaccine doses moving forward, although he expressed concerns about vaccines that will soon be provided to federally qualified health centers and community health clinics within Indiana.

The Republican governor said health officials want to be able to monitor “need and supply” with the state’s current system, in addition to tracking who is getting vaccinated.

“We’re never going to turn away more doses, we love that,” Holcomb said Wednesday. “But we want to know where the doses are going."

Weaver said more than 60% of the state's eligible populations have already been vaccinated or have appointments to get shots.

That total includes about 57% of Hoosiers 80 and older, 65% of Hoosiers aged 70, and older, and 56% of Hoosiers aged 65 to 69. The number also includes about 68% of eligible health care workers and first responders, in addition to nearly 98,000 doses that have been administered to residents and staff in long term care facilities, Weaver said.

To date, about 17,000 out of state residents have received vaccine who live in neighboring states but work in Indiana.

Weaver maintained the state's vaccine wastage “has been minimal," noting that of the more than 1.3 million doses Indiana has received so far, only 172 doses have been lost.

As Indiana’s rates of new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths continued a steep decline after peaking in early December, state health officials additionally lowered the risk level for COVID-19 spread in more counties.

The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported 933 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of Hoosiers known to have the virus up to 651,453.

Health officials also added 20 recent coronavirus deaths to the statewide total, pushing it to 12,250 fatalities including both confirmed and presumed COVID-19 infections.

The health department reported that 955 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday at Indiana’s hospitals. That marks the first time since Oct. 4 that fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 patients were recorded by the state.

The state Department of Health’s weekly tracking map updated Wednesday labels no counties in the highest-risk red category for the first time since late September. That is down from 73 of the 92 counties in that category last month.

This week’s map lists eight counties in the next-riskiest orange category, a drop from 40 one week earlier.

“Our color-coded county maps look the best that they have looked in months. This is all positive news," said Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner. “We continue to move in the right direction, but please, please continue to wear your masks, stay socially distanced and stay home when you’re sick and get tested.”

___

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 657037

Reported Deaths: 12450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion901321624
Lake48105871
Allen35552632
Hamilton31839393
St. Joseph29538510
Elkhart25261412
Vanderburgh21115377
Tippecanoe19765197
Johnson16242352
Porter15838267
Hendricks15723296
Clark11843179
Madison11672314
Vigo11503228
Monroe10248158
Delaware9788178
LaPorte9720194
Howard9017194
Kosciusko8514107
Bartholomew7373147
Warrick7369146
Hancock7362128
Floyd7139164
Wayne6586188
Grant6395157
Morgan6040124
Boone603388
Dubois5868111
Dearborn540266
Henry539492
Marshall5390104
Cass537199
Noble506775
Jackson462063
Shelby458490
Lawrence4154111
Gibson399681
Harrison395160
Clinton392353
DeKalb382078
Montgomery381583
Knox354484
Miami354063
Whitley346235
Huntington338176
Steuben335955
Wabash328775
Putnam325959
Ripley325161
Adams320249
Jasper312943
White295351
Jefferson292770
Daviess284296
Fayette270255
Decatur269388
Greene259978
Posey259731
Wells255374
Scott248446
LaGrange240170
Clay238944
Randolph225076
Spencer215830
Jennings213544
Washington207727
Sullivan202038
Fountain200341
Starke185950
Owen181652
Jay177328
Fulton176437
Carroll175618
Perry172435
Orange170450
Rush163922
Franklin158335
Vermillion158040
Tipton145441
Parke137915
Pike127232
Blackford120027
Pulaski105643
Newton96431
Brown94639
Benton91113
Crawford90113
Martin80114
Switzerland7507
Warren74612
Union66810
Ohio52711
Unassigned0425

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