How Will Indiana Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

Dec 14, 2020

Health care workers received the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Dec. 14.
Credit Provided by Indiana Department of Health

Indiana will begin receiving its first doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week, and anticipates receiving more at least weekly. 

Who is included in the first phase of vaccinations?

The state’s first phase of initial doses will go to health care workers and long-term care facility residents.

Health care workers – doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, environmental services, administrators who have direct contact with patients, transportation staff – estimated at about 400,000 people in the state. There are about 39,000 Hoosiers living in long-term care facilities. 

That means about 6.5 percent of Indiana’s total population are prioritized for the first phase of the vaccine’s rollout. 

But Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana Health Department chief medical officer, said the very first doses aren’t enough to cover that entire population. The health department anticipates receiving 55,575 doses in the first week. 

“At this time, we can’t predict when we will move into the next phase,” Weaver said. “Because it will depend … on vaccine supplies as well as how many Hoosiers choose to get the vaccine.”

According to the state health department, only those notified by their employers can register for vaccination at this time. Those who are will need to show a medical ID. 

When will others be able to receive the vaccine? What about people over the age of 65, but not living in long-term care facilities?

Short answer: we don’t quite know yet.

Weaver said the initial doses – referred to in the state’s vaccination plan as phase 1-A – will likely be distributed through the end of January. Though, again, the supply the state will receive is unknown at the moment. 

In phase 1-B, the state lists essential workers and people at higher risk for severe illness – people with underlying health conditions and/or over the age of 65. During the governor’s news briefing, she said the state is still taking national recommendations into consideration, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The ACIP currently recommends vaccinating essential workers next, though she said they will vote on that at a later date. 

In Indiana, that decision will be made by the state’s Vaccination Program Implementation Committee. 

The state’s interim plan would make vaccines available to wider populations after essential workers and vulnerable populations received the vaccine. But there is no solid timeline because of the unknowns about vaccine doses available to the state. 

Will I have to pay for the vaccine?

No. 

Vaccine providers will be able to bill insurance for a fee to administer the vaccine, but will not be able to charge you. They can seek reimbursement for uninsured patients from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Can I get or spread COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No. 

There are several different types of vaccines. Rotavirus and MMR vaccines use a live but weakened version of the virus to teach your body to develop long-term immunity to a disease. Flu and rabies shots use an inactive version of the virus, but that’s why you don’t develop long-term immunity from those viruses. 

The COVID-19 vaccine doses developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use a new type of vaccine, an mRNA vaccine. This type of vaccine has been in development for about three decades, but is only now being used for COVID-19. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines teach your cells how to make a protein – or even just a piece of a protein – that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects you from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

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That being said, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be effective – more similar to many childhood vaccinations than getting a flu shot. So, once you do receive a vaccination, you may have to receive a follow-up.

Do I still have to wear a mask once I have the vaccine?

Yes. 

According to NPR’s Shots, studies of the new vaccines only measured whether vaccinated people developed symptoms, not whether they got infected. It's possible that they got mild infections — not enough to make them ill, but enough to pass the virus on to others. 

The CDC is calling for those who are immunized to continue wearing masks and practicing safe physical distancing until more is learned.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

WITF, a station in Pennsylvania, asked that question of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Dr. William Moss.

He said at this point, we only know the short-term side effects – which appear in about 5-15 percent of participants.

Those include inflammation, soreness at the injection site, a low-grade fever, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue. These can last from 12 to 36 hours after vaccination. 

How effective are the vaccines?

Only the Pfizer-BioNTech has been given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. According to the FDA’s authorization letter, it is 95 percent effective seven days after the second dose. According to Moderna’s data, it is 94.1 percent effective. 

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.