The Journal Gazette
Thursday, February 25, 2021 1:00 am

State to correct vaccine policies

For clinics dosing ineligible patients

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Some Indiana clinics that were found giving vaccine doses to ineligible Hoosiers have been prohibited from getting new first doses, state Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said Wednesday.

She would not give the exact number of clinics in trouble and said they would be allowed to fully vaccinate any Hoosiers who already have appointments for a second dose.

After corrective action she expects them to return as a full partner.

In the meantime, the state will reallocate first doses to other sites in the county so overall doses aren't impacted for that county.

“We are not trying to be the vaccine police. That is the last thing we want to be,” Box said. “We are trying to ensure that we have ethical and equitable access to the vaccine across all 92 counties based on what the data show are the highest risk individuals here in the state of Indiana.”

She said there have been instances in which clinics have hosted special clinics for ineligible individuals. There is also concern with standby lists for unused doses. 

“We continue to stress to clinics the importance of following state eligibility guidelines. Our age-based approach is driven by data and is designed to prevent hospitalizations and save the most lives,” Box said. “And when clinics don't follow those guidelines – whether it's for overall eligibility or for their wait lists – they create inequities around the state.”

She said it is frustrating for someone who is high risk due to a health condition patiently waiting for his or her vaccine only to see a healthy 20- or 30-year-old get one.

The issue arises as teachers continue to push for prioritization and several posted on social media recently that their appointments were canceled after state involvement. The Indiana State Department of Health says appointments are only for those eligible – currently those 60 and older, health care workers and first responders.

The wait lists should only cover those currently eligible or in the next group.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state is continuing with five-year increments so the next group would be ages 55-59.

So far, 920,930 Hoosiers have received their first vaccine shots with 482,564 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.

Also on Wednesday the state reported 1,019 new cases and four deaths. Allen County reported 62 new cases and no deaths.

Holcomb was asked again – it is now a weekly question – about why teachers aren't yet eligible.

“The professions don't put you at higher risk,” Holcomb said. “We are trying to get to as many people as we can – be it teachers or person who works at a truck stop on I-70.”

Box said those between 50 and 64 are 30 times more likely to die of COVID-19. And she said if the state gets a flood of vaccines it will move to phase 2, which is critical infrastructure that would include teachers.

The governor is extending the 30-day emergency orders, which were set to expire Monday and Tuesday, despite improving trends.

Indiana's positivity rate is now 4.1%; hospitalizations are down under 900 for the first time since September; and the majority of the state is in the second-lowest level of spread – yellow. None are in red.

Holcomb said this isn't “mission accomplished” yet and encourages residents to keep up with the precautions that have allowed the state to reopen.

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