Less than six hours after Indiana opened vaccinations for Hoosiers age 70 to 79 on Wednesday morning, a wave of nearly 60,000 people in that age group had registered for appointments, the latest sign of a huge pent-up demand for protection against COVID-19.
“It’s almost like a gold rush, but it’s a vaccine rush,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said during his weekly press briefing.
The state will expand eligibility for the vaccine by age group “as quickly as supplies and resources allow,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer of the Indiana Department of Health.
She announced the number of Hoosiers in the 70-79 age group who had secured vaccine appointments through the OurShot.in.gov website or 2-1-1 phone exchange was 59,723 at about 3:15, less than six hours after the state had announced at 10 a.m. that the age group was eligible to get the doses.
The state is receiving about 79,000 doses a week of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but has not heard whether that number could grow to meet huge demand.
The state health department said it is working with local health departments to increase vaccination capacity. Indiana has 148 vaccine clinics, at least one per county, and many have multiple dosing stations. Marion County alone has 10 vaccine clinics at hospitals and the county health department.
“This week, we will ship an additional 20,000 doses of vaccine to those health departments,” Weaver said. “That is nearly double the amount we were able to send them last week.”
The state is also coordinating shipments of vaccines to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, using pharmacy staff from CVS and Walgreens.
“The goal is to get vaccines to the most vulnerable Hoosiers in the location where they’re at,” said Dr. Dan Rusyniak, chief medical officer of the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration.
Since December, more than 1,300 long-term care facilities have signed up, including the vast majority of skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities, he said, and they are all on pace to administer the first dose by early February.
As of Monday, pharmacy workers had been to more than 200 facilities and provided shots to 11,000 residents—or about one-third of the 34,000 residents in 534 skilled-nursing facilities in Indiana. He said pharmacy workers have also started administering shots at assisted-living facilities.
“The pharmacy program has started off a little slow, we admit,” Rusyniak said. “But we have been in weekly discussions with the pharmacy chains and they have hired significantly more staff and are continuing to add to the workforce.”