As of Tuesday, COVID-19 vaccination rates for Indiana and Ohio were almost the same: 13.1% of Hoosiers had received at least one dose; 12.9% of Ohioans had received their first shot.
But anyone with family and friends in Ohio knows the registration process there has been far from seamless.
Ohio residents age 70 and older found themselves competing with teachers and other school staff for vaccine appointments, scrambling to find providers. Unlike Indiana, Ohio's mostly decentralized vaccination process requires some residents to search several different providers' websites, multiple times a day, to find an available appointment.
“Without a plan, more than 900 groups and individuals are pleading with (Gov. Mike) DeWine for a spot in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last week. “Many are making compelling, even heart-wrenching, arguments. Take police officers, who weren't inoculated along with other first responders but can't socially distance in their jobs. ... In Columbus alone, one in three police officers has contracted COVID-19.”
By contrast, the vaccination process in Indiana has included clear eligibility guidelines. Hoosiers have benefited from a central registration website and telephone reservations easily handled through the 211 line. The state has recruited its Area Agencies on Aging and AARP to reach out to their clients and members to assist in registering. Even with the weather complications last week, Hoosiers are finding vaccine sites running like clockwork, with none of the long waits residents of some other states face.
The state reported last week that 68% of Indiana's eligible health care workers and first responders have been vaccinated. That's an impressive achievement. So, too, is the state's handling of the precious vaccine supply. Just 172 doses of 1.3 million received have been lost from broken vials or syringes. That's 1/100th of a percent for wasted doses.
“The credit goes to our vaccine clinics and all the hard work they are doing to make sure the doses go to someone who is eligible,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health.
Credit also must go to Weaver, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box and Gov. Eric Holcomb. They have been steadfast in sticking with the age-based vaccination plan, with the clear intent of driving down hospitalizations and deaths. Statewide hospitalizations fell from 3,460 on Nov. 30 to fewer than 900 last week. Deaths have fallen from a high of 122 on Dec. 29 to six on Monday.
While it's true the vaccine would benefit teachers, restaurant employees, grocery store clerks and others who must interact closely with others, basing the vaccine administration on hospitalization and death rate data follows the sound, scientific approach needed to put the coronavirus behind us. Pivoting to change guidelines on who is eligible seems to have complicated the vaccination process in Ohio.
The efficient process used by Indiana's state- and county-level health officials is working well – bringing all of us closer to the opportunity to be vaccinated. Kudos to the Holcomb administration and to the vaccine clinic staff members across the state for giving Hoosiers their best shot at beating COVID-19.
The latest on the vaccine
Hoosiers age 60 and older can schedule a vaccination at ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211 if they do not have access to a computer or need assistance registering. While some locations are maintaining standby lists for vaccine appointments, those lists are only available for residents who meet current eligibility guidelines.
Posts on Facebook and other social media sites last weekend falsely claimed Gov. Eric Holcomb had ordered Walmart pharmacies to destroy leftover doses and threatened to revoke pharmacy licenses rather than administer them to teachers.
“The Indiana Department of Health has never told a clinic to discard unused doses and does not regulate pharmacy licenses,” Jeni O'Malley, spokesperson for the state health department, told the Indianapolis Star. “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.”
Teachers age 60 and older are now eligible for the vaccine. Special education instructors whose work requires them to perform certain medical procedures were among the first groups prioritized for vaccination.