By CASEY SMITH
The Associated Press/Report for America
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana state leaders said they’re working to meet President Joe Biden’s directive to make all adults eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine by May 1, but blamed expansion delays on too few shots coming from the federal government.
When federal officials determine states’ allocations of vaccines each week, Indiana “always seeks as many doses as possible,” state health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said Wednesday.
But Indiana has received several thousand fewer doses than many other states in recent weeks, she said. Last week, Indiana was fifth from the bottom for doses delivered per 100,000 residents. As of Tuesday, the state was ranked 35th.
Noting that Indiana is the 17th most populated state, Box said the disparity in vaccine allocation equates to “thousands” of missed shots for Hoosiers.
“We have said all along that the one thing that limits our ability to open vaccine eligibility more broadly is the amount of vaccine Indiana is receiving each week,” Box said, emphasizing that the state's ability to expand vaccine eligibility further will depend on increased supply. “Our goal is to get more shots in arms and Indiana, so we’re eager for the vaccine supply to increase substantially.”
Indiana health officials were reassured by the federal government that all states should begin to receive “large amounts of vaccine” by the last week of March and into April, Box said. Once that happens, eligibility should open up for everyone in the state at that time, she continued.
Of the doses Indiana has received so far, more than 85% has been administered, which Box noted is above the national average of 80%.
“This demonstrates how quickly we are working to get vaccines, once received, into the arms of Hoosiers,” she said. “We have demonstrated repeatedly that we have the ability to get shots and arms quickly, equitably and safely. And we will continue to advocate for more doses for Hoosiers.”
As Indiana awaits further vaccine, Gov. Eric Holcomb said he’ll discuss next steps for the state’s rollout of shots and possible lifts on statewide restrictions in a statewide address Tuesday evening.
More than 1.3 million Hoosiers have received their first dose of vaccine, an increase of nearly 147,000 from last week, Box said. Around 870,000 people across Indiana are now fully vaccinated, which represents nearly 20% of the state’s population.
So far, 72% of Hoosiers aged 80 and older, and 75% of those aged 70 to 79, have scheduled or received a vaccine, Box said. Those vaccination rates drop to 63% for those aged 60 to 69, and 43% for Hoosiers between the ages of 50 and 59.
In the first two days of eligibility, 23% of those aged 45 to 49 have also signed up to get vaccinated.
Since teachers and school staff became eligible to receive the vaccine at state sites on Monday, at least 20,000 have made an appointment. Box said that number is likely higher, however, because some from this group may have already been vaccinated through the federal pharmacy program, or made appointments because they were eligible due to their age.
Nearly 145,000 first and second doses have also been administered to residents and staff in long term care facilities.
The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported 919 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of Hoosiers known to have the virus up to 674,430.
Indiana has additionally recorded almost 12,900 confirmed or presumed coronavirus-related deaths over the past year.
The state Department of Health’s weekly tracking map updated Wednesday labels no counties in the highest-risk red category for the fifth week in a row. This week’s map also lists no counties in the next-riskiest orange category.
Twenty-seven counties remain in the moderate-risk yellow rating, and 65 counties are labeled in the lowest-risk blue category.