INDIANAPOLIS — The news spread like wildfire among educators on social media. Some Indiana teachers received the COVID-19 vaccine through standby lists at Walmart stores around the state.
But that practice stopped abruptly this weekend. Teachers calling Walmart pharmacies are being told they can't get on the standby list anymore.
Jessika Acton teaches English as a second language at Manual High School.
Acton heard that Walmart was prioritizing teachers on their vaccine standby list. So, she called the Walmart pharmacy on the southwest side of Indianapolis Tuesday night.
She was put on the list and got her shot the next day on short notice. She knows at least a handful of colleagues who received the vaccine the same way.
"We were just able to get out,” Acton said. “We were more capable of getting out at the time, or more willing, I'm not sure. So, we were able to get those vaccines that they were going to throw away."
Marissa Tanner is a history teacher at Anderson High School. Her superintendent alerted her to the opportunity to get on the standby list. Tanner got the call and got her shot at a Walmart in Anderson Friday.
"I didn't cut in line,” Tanner said. “I put my name on a waitlist, and they called me, which means that they had availabilities, which means that somebody didn't show up for their appointment."
The Indiana State Department of Health says not wasting any vaccine is of utmost importance. That's why vaccine clinics are encouraged to have a standby list — but only those who are currently eligible for the vaccine are supposed to be on that list.
Indiana Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver sent a letter dated Jan. 30, reminding vaccine clinics “we must all be steadfast in sticking to the outlined criteria.”
ISDH issued this statement Sunday:
Never wasting a dose is of the utmost importance in the state’s vaccine plan. The Indiana Department of Health has never told a clinic to discard unused doses. We ask every clinic to keep a standby list of people who meet current eligibility requirements so that every dose can be administered, and only one one-hundredth of the doses we have received have been wasted, primarily due to a vial or syringe breaking.
We ask all vaccine clinics to follow the state’s eligibility requirements when administering vaccine, and the CDC states that pharmacies should follow state eligibility requirements. Indiana’s eligibility categories are determined based on their ability to prevent death and hospitalization, not profession. Currently, healthcare workers, first responders and Hoosiers age 65 and older are eligible to receive vaccine.
We are in constant communication with all of our vaccine sites and remind them of the state’s eligibility requirements and the need to follow them.
Walmart offered this response Sunday:
Walmart is proud to partner with the state to provide vaccinations to eligible Hoosiers. Eligibility and Waste Avoidance Protocols are developed in collaboration with the state with the shared goal of never letting a dose go to waste. Social media posts made Saturday about our waste protocol policies are inaccurate.
Teachers in every surrounding state are eligible for the vaccine, with clinics sometimes held at schools. Indiana teachers believe they deserve the same priority status.
"I know for myself, and all of my colleagues, if we all got the vaccines, we could go back to normal tomorrow, five days a week,” Tanner said. “We'd be ready to go. We're scared for ourselves and our family's health."
"The teachers who are going in that building every day and providing for their students, this is like a selfless act,” Acton said. “We want our students to be safe, and they cannot do that, and schools cannot do that if the teachers are not priority."
Teachers who called Walmart pharmacies this weekend to get on the standby list say they were denied at the same locations where other teachers received their vaccines.