INDIANAPOLIS — More senior citizens are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Less than a week after Hoosiers 80 and older got the green light, state health officials announced people 70 and older qualify for shots. The "younger crowd" rushed to sign up Wednesday.
Allowing Hoosiers 70 and older to get vaccinations tripled the number of Indiana senior citizens eligible for shots. Almost 60,000 signed up right away. They overwhelmed the registration website and phone center.
"If you don't have the time right now to wait, check back tonight," said Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver. "Check in tomorrow afternoon, we are continuously adding sites and adding appointments."
State public health officials are targeting the most vulnerable citizens. The 60-and-older population accounts for more than 90 percent of deaths and two out of three hospitalizations. Prioritizing them is intended to save the most lives and lessen the burden on crowded hospitals.
The federal government has promised Indiana increased amounts of vaccine but haven't told public health officials how much or when it will arrive.
"I know it is hard to wait your turn," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box. "We are in a numbers game and there still is not enough doses available in Indiana to provide a vaccine to everyone."
Daily vaccinations at the Franciscan Health clinic have almost doubled since it opened a few weeks ago. With more people eligible to get them, traffic is likely to increase even more. Dr. Christopher Doehring, the hospital's vice president of medical affairs, supports the health department's plan.
"Clearly, using age cut-offs to set the age prioritization as a strategy makes a lot of sense," Doehring said. "It's going to have an immediate positive impact."
Assuming the federal government keeps its promise to provide more vaccine.