Indiana adding teachers to the COVID vaccine eligibility list

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(Photo supplied/Michigan News Service)

Indiana is adding teachers to the COVID vaccine eligibility list.

Vaccination of teachers began last week at Meijer, Kroger and Wal-Mart through a separate federal program, with appointments scheduled directly with those chains rather than the state vaccination portal. But Governor Holcomb says the White House has told states to make teachers a priority, so starting Monday, they can register through the state, and get vaccinated at any of more than 400 vaccination sites.

The eligibility list is set by the Centers for Disease Control, and covers daycare workers, and other school employees besides teachers, including bus drivers, janitors and cafeteria staff.

Health care workers and first responders were the first Hoosiers to get vaccinated, but the state has been adamant since then about prioritizing vaccinations based on age, in order to reach Hoosiers at the highest risk of hospitalization or death from the virus. The state began with people over 80 and has worked its way down to 50, with a small number of health conditions added only recently.

Holcomb says he believes Indiana has handled its vaccine plan “flawlessly.” He says the state will follow the federal directive, but with only so many doses to go around, he says adding teachers may mean a longer wait for appointments for the latest list of underlying conditions added to the eligibility guidelines on Tuesday, from cystic fibrosis to muscular dystrophy.

Health department chief medical officer Lindsay Weaver says those patients’ doctors are contacting them directly about scheduling appointments.

The expanded vaccinations may delay the next planned lowering of the age threshold to 40 or 45.

Holcomb plans a statewide address in the next week on the status of the fight against the pandemic and what comes next. He says he’s optimistic about the trend lines, but says the growing number of states lifting restrictions won’t affect Indiana’s decision on following suit. He says that decision will be based solely on Indiana’s data.

While Ohio Governor Michael DeWine announced last week he’ll lift restrictions when cases fall to one for every two-thousand people, Holcomb says he’ll base that decision not on any single indicator, but several, from infection and vaccination rates to hospitalizations and the supply of masks and sanitizer.

And Holcomb and health commissioner Kristina Box are emphasizing the importance of continuing to wear masks, even after you’re vaccinated. Box says it’s still important to take precautions to avoid infecting those who haven’t gotten the vaccine, especially people in high-risk groups. And she says she’s still keeping a wary eye on virus mutations which could increase the infection’s spread.

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