Some Miami County residents will soon be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the county’s top health official is asking the public’s cooperation in making sure the process goes smoothly.
“For right now, the local health department, we will do what we have been charged to do,” County Health Officer Dr. Christi Redmon told the Tribune on Thursday.
That is to administer the doses of vaccine they receive to those residents 80 years old and older.
“If you are 70, don’t call the health department,” she said.
The process here begins on Jan. 13.
And when it does, no one needs to call the health department in order to secure an appointment, Redmon said.
That can be done by visiting the state’s scheduling website at ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211 for those who do not have access to the internet.
Redmon suggested family members could provide assistance in that process should it prove challenging.
“If you have an elderly grandparent or parent, help them do that,” she said.
As of Wednesday’s update from the Indiana State Department of Health, 245 Miami County residents had already received the first dose of the two-dose vaccines that are being distributed.
Those are going mostly to health care workers and residents in the area’s long term care facilities, Redmon said.
On Wednesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced in his weekly news conference that the state would make vaccines available to those 80 and older starting on Friday.
State health officials said that they plan to start offering vaccinations in the coming weeks next to those 70 and older and then 60 and older. Those age groups make up 93 percent of Indiana’s more than 8,700 coronavirus-related deaths since March.
“We are really concentrating on saving lives and reducing hospitalizations,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the state health department’s chief medical officer. “If we vaccinate every Hoosier that’s 60 and older, that’s 1.5 million people and so it’ll be quite some time before we get that vaccine in order to do it.”
Notification postcards about scheduling vaccination appointments will be sent out to some 250,000 people ages 80 and older, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said.
Vaccinations are also now available for police officers, emergency medical services staffers and firefighters.
No dates are being set for when those in their 70s and 60s can receive vaccines were announced, although Weaver said the aim was to have that expansion in February.
The state health department reported that about 52,000 people received the first dose of a two-shot vaccination in the past week, pushing Indiana’s first dose total to 128,000 through Tuesday. Nearly 600 people in the past week became Indiana’s first ones to complete the two-shot vaccinations.
The vaccination expansion comes as the state on Wednesday added a dozen more Indiana counties to those at highest risk level of COVID-19 spread. The health department’s updated weekly tracking map now labels 57 of the state’s 92 counties the most dangerous red category, up from 45 a week ago. All other counties are in the next-riskiest orange rating of the four-level system.
The state’s coronavirus hospitalizations of about 2,800 are down about 20 percent since the beginning of December.
Holcomb said he believed the vaccinations plan was appropriate as two-thirds of Indiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are of those ages 60 and older.
“Taking this by age eligibility, will keep this not just methodical, but it will eat into where we have the most vulnerable Hoosiers at risk,” Holcomb said.
Locally, Redmon said, the health department will have slots open for vaccinations Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
In the first week, she said she opted not to start until Wednesday (Jan. 13), because she wanted to ensure that the county receives its shipment before making appointments.
She said the county will also hold a drive-thru vaccination on Jan. 16 from 12 to 8 p.m. at the Boulevard entrance to Dukes Memorial Hospital for those who may have mobility problems or concerns about walking into the health department building.
Appointments for that can also be made through the state website.
Redmon said she encouraged residents to read up about the vaccine and the process before scheduling an appointment and said that everyone needs to be aware that they have to remain on site for 15 minutes after being administered the shot so that they can be monitored for the rare adverse reaction. Those who have a history of certain allergic reactions and who carry an epinephrine pen, will be asked to stay 30 minutes.
More information about the vaccine can be found at www.coronavirus.in.gov/vaccine.