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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Sickle cell disease patients now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Indiana

Since many sickle cell patients are younger, the state’s age-based vaccine rollout plan was not reaching them.

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers 16 and older living with sickle cell disease are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center (IHTC) is working with the Indiana State Department of Health to reach patients and raise awareness about its importance. According to the center, this is the first group with comorbidities to become eligible.

"We have patients that have been held up in their homes for 11 months, afraid to go out because they know that if they were to get COVID, their chance of being hospitalized, getting really sick or dying is higher than the average population," said Dr. Kimber Blackwell, a nurse practitioner with IHTC. 

Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that causes red blood cells to be misshaped. The red blood cells aren't able to carry oxygen well, which affects the whole body.

Nearly 1,500 people in Indiana have been diagnosed with sickle cell disease.

Blackwell said since many of the patients are younger, the state's age-based rollout plan was not reaching them.

"We don't have a lot of sickle cell patients that are in that age bracket because their disease is devastating, and they have a shortened lifespan," she said.  

IHTC has a strong relationship with the state’s department of health.  

"Out of that previous relationship and collaboration, we've been working with them on how to implement contacting patients, contacting other providers," Blackwell said. 

The registration process will look different for those with chronic medical conditions. Patients will be contacted by their provider and given a one-time code and link to sign-up. 

Blackwell said it is important that patients have all their information updated.  

You can find more information here about the sign-up process. 

This week, the state is expected to receive the first shipment of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. 

The plan is to ship out 4 million doses across the country, with 20 million available by the end of March.