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WATCH NOW: Indiana expanding vaccine eligibility to all school personnel of any age starting Monday
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WATCH NOW: Indiana expanding vaccine eligibility to all school personnel of any age starting Monday

From the ICYMI: Here are the most-read stories from the past week series

Hoosier teachers and other school employees of any age will be eligible starting Monday to make an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at any immunization site in Indiana.

Currently, Indiana teachers can be vaccinated against the coronavirus through a federal vaccine distribution program by making an appointment directly with retail pharmacies located in many Meijer, Walmart and Kroger stores.

But Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday the federal government has ordered Indiana to pause the expansion of the state’s age-based vaccine distribution plan to individuals younger than age 50 and to instead bump school personnel to the front of the line.

Editor Marc Chase interviews Sarahi Unzueta, part of the "Hoosiers We've Lost" project.

“We were using data to drive all our decisions about those who were most at risk,” Holcomb said. “The administration, our federal partners, have said you need to add teachers in to any site — so we will do that.

“Teachers, educators, need to show up at a site, with their ID, starting on Monday, and we’ll make sure they get vaccinated.”

Appointments are required for teachers and all eligible individuals to receive the free immunization and must be made online at ourshot.in.gov, or by calling 211.

GlenEva Dunham, president of the Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and Gary Teachers Union president, thanked Holcomb for “finally” giving teachers vaccine priority.

“I think that teachers would have felt much better if he had (done) it way down the track. I mean, why now? Why didn’t he do it a long time ago?” Dunham said.

“Teachers appreciate it. I want my teachers vaccinated. They want to be vaccinated, but teachers are basically hustling for vaccinations, and that’s not right. Hopefully, he’ll do better next time by his teachers.”

Others eligible to receive the vaccine include Hoosiers age 50 and older, health care personnel, nursing home residents and staff, first responders, and individuals of any age invited by the Indiana Department of Health to set up a vaccine appointment due to a specific chronic health condition.

A complete list of eligible health conditions is online at ourshot.in.gov.

Vaccine appointments can be scheduled at any of 445 sites across the state, including hospitals, clinics, local health departments and some retail pharmacies. Each site sets its own hours and days of service.

In Northwest Indiana, there are 20 immunization sites in Lake County, six in Porter County, eight in LaPorte County, one in Newton County and two in Jasper County.

Eligible individuals also now can make appointments through the state website for the mass vaccination event scheduled for 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 20, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 21, at Calumet New Tech High School, 3900 Calhoun St., Gary.

According to the Indiana Department of Health, approximately 850 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will be administered each day as part of an effort to boost the number of immunized individuals living in and around the Steel City.

The governor also is urging all Hoosiers age 50 to 59 not to wait to get vaccinated after seeing state health agency data showing vaccine adoption has been slower in that age group compared to earlier cohorts.

He said just 37% of Indiana residents between 50 and 59 have either scheduled a COVID-19 vaccine appointment or already received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The vaccination rate is 60% for individuals between ages 60 and 69, 73% for 70 to 79, and 72% for Hoosiers age 80 and older, state data show.

“I’ll just make an appeal to those folks who are 50 to 59 — step up,” Holcomb said. “You’re going to help us all get through this sooner.”

State health records show Indiana’s COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates already are dropping significantly versus just a few months ago.

In fact, Lake, LaPorte and Newton counties this week all achieved the highest-possible “blue” advisory level. Porter and Jasper counties remain one notch below at “yellow.”

Casinos in blue counties are allowed to expand to 75% capacity and social gatherings of up to 250 individuals are permitted. Social gatherings in yellow counties are capped at 100 people.

Holcomb said if vaccination rates, hospitalization rates, death rates and other COVID-19 factors continue to improve, it may not be too long before Indiana joins several other Republican-led states in lifting the remaining restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, including the governor’s face mask directive.

“We’ll get there. I’ll have more to say in the next week or two,” Holcomb said. “I want to make sure we, the people, continue to do the things that are responsible in terms of the impacts it has on our public health at large.”

{h3}Indiana COVID-19 county color guidelines

{/h3} {h3}Updated COVID-19 operating guidance for Indiana casinos

{/h3} {h3}COVID-19: Hoosiers We’ve Lost

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