Indiana to open COVID vaccine eligibility to all 16 and older March 31


Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced all Indiana residents age 16 and older would be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 31.

During a March 23 virtual state address, Holcomb said Indiana and all other states were told the federal government will send large shipments of vaccines the last week of March. The federal government has directed all states to vaccinate all residents 16 and older by May 1.

“What’s been the real life-and-death game-changer has been access to vaccines,” Holcomb said. “Our approach to vaccinating Hoosiers has been simple – vaccinate those who are most at risk for hospitalization and death first, which meant our seniors and those who were medically at risk were first in line.”

But now that the state has opened eligibility to residents 40 and older, health care workers, first responders, educators, school staff and those with specific health conditions, Holcomb said it is time to open eligibility to all residents 16 and older. State officials expect to receive increased shipments of all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA. State health officials will wait to examine trial data from studies that have enrolled children 15 and younger before granting eligibility to those younger than 16.

In addition, Holcomb said beginning April 6 local officials will be responsible for determining venue and event capacities. The state’s color-coded advisory map will still be updated but will no longer determine a county’s capacity limitations.

“Customers at restaurants, bars and nightclubs will no longer be required to be seated,” Holcomb said of the April 6 changes. “Six feet of spacing between tables and other seating will still be recommended, as is spacing between non-household parties. Social distancing is still recommended. Hospitals may return to a normal state when scheduling non-emergency procedures and surgeries were occurring.”

Also beginning April 6, Indiana’s face-covering mandate will become a state mask advisory, though face coverings will remain mandatory in all state buildings and facilities and in all vaccination and COVID-19 testing sites until further notice. Masks will continue to be required at all K-12 schools for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year, Holcomb said.

Holcomb said Indiana will implement a “large employer-based vaccination program,” which he said state officials have been planning for weeks, though he did not elaborate on the details. He said state officials aim to provide a more convenient way for Indiana residents to get vaccinated.

Additional mass vaccination clinics will be scheduled in April, and the state will continue to send mobile units to targeted areas to further distribute vaccines.

Holcomb said data shows nearly 90 percent of Indiana schools have returned to in-person schedules, and many of the rest are adhering to hybrid schedules.

“It’s my hope and expectation that our K-12 schools will provide full-time, in-person instruction for the 2021-22 academic year, using what they’ve learned and the additional federal, state and local resources provided,” Holcomb said.