INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana officials said Wednesday that the state should be able to immediately inoculate a third of children ages 5 to 11 as preparations are made to expand Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for the age group if the federal government gives it approval.
The Indiana Department of Health's chief medical officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said the state expects to receive 200,000 additional COVID vaccines intended for the state's roughly 600,000 5- to 11-year-olds on Monday and Tuesday. Smaller shipments of the vaccine are expected in the following weeks, a process similar to earlier COVID vaccine rollouts, Weaver said.
The announcement came one day after an advisory committee with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration endorsed the kid-size doses. The FDA is expected to authorize the shots within days, followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention next week.
“We will be prepped and ready to start giving it as soon as the CDC gives its approval,” Weaver said during a news conference. “Personally, I believe this first round will definitely be enough for everybody who’s been waiting and excited to go get vaccinated.”
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said that state health officials will have “no problem” being able to quickly reorder more vaccines when needed.
The state has more than 1,300 vaccination sites — across Indiana's 92 counties — that are available for children ages 5 to 11, Weaver said. The state health department also announced Wednesday that it will extend the COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinic being held outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until Nov. 20 in anticipation of expanded vaccines for kids.
Nearly 7 million vaccine doses have so far been administered in Indiana, and about 57% of those eligible in the state are fully vaccinated, according to state data.
Roughly 300,000 COVID booster shots have been administered throughout the state, Weaver said. That number is expected to grow in the next month.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and the state’s top health officials also encouraged Hoosiers to receive flu shots to prevent a “twindemic.”
Although Indiana has up to 150 deaths from the flu on average each year, the state recorded just seven flu deaths in 2020. Box said that’s attributable to COVID-19 closures and social-distancing protocols put in place a year ago.
“But I think that we’re following fewer mitigation measures now than we were last year,” Box said. “So, I’m very worried about the numbers being up, and I really want to make sure we don’t have an increased burden to our hospitals as we go forward.”
Fifty-one percent of Hoosiers – the most ever recorded – received flu vaccinations last year, Box added. She said the state is hoping to continue that trend in 2021, topping the normal yearly average of 37% to 50% of Hoosiers vaccinated.
Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.