Holcomb presser

Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks from the Statehouse about the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine in Indiana. 

INDIANAPOLIS — Coronavirus vaccinations will start becoming available to Indiana residents 80 and older starting Friday as state health officials start expanding access to those shots.

The next vaccination steps announced Wednesday come after vaccinations of Indiana health care workers began Dec. 16 and extended to nursing home residents and staffers last week.

State health officials said that they plan to start offering vaccinations in the coming weeks next to those 70 and older and then 60 and older. Those age groups make up 93% of Indiana's more than 8,700 coronavirus-related deaths since March.

"We are really concentrating on saving lives and reducing hospitalizations," said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the state health department's chief medical officer. "If we vaccinate every Hoosier that's 60 and older, that's 1.5 million people and so it'll be quite some time before we get that vaccine in order to do it."

Notification postcards about scheduling vaccination appointments will be sent out to some 250,000 people ages 80 and older, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said.

Appointments will be available in all 92 counties and can be made starting Friday for those 80 and older at the website ourshot.in.gov or by calling the state's 2-1-1 telephone assistance service.

Vaccinations are also now available for police officers, emergency medical services staffers and firefighters.

No dates are being set for when those in their 70s and 60s can receive vaccines were announced, although Weaver said the aim was to have that expansion in February.

The state health department reported that about 52,000 people received the first dose of a two-shot vaccination in the past week, pushing Indiana's first dose total to 128,000 through Tuesday. Nearly 600 people in the past week became Indiana's first ones to complete the two-shot vaccinations.

The vaccination expansion comes as the state on Wednesday added a dozen more Indiana counties to those at highest risk level of COVID-19 spread. The health department's updated weekly tracking map now labels 57 of the state's 92 counties the most dangerous red category, up from 45 a week ago. All other counties are in the next-riskiest orange rating of the four-level system.

The department's daily update added 80 coronavirus deaths that occurred in recent days to the state's pandemic toll. Indiana's seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 deaths has declined to the low 70s per day after reaching a pandemic average peak of 85 in mid-December.

The state's coronavirus hospitalizations of about 2,800 are down about 20% since the beginning of December.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said he believed the vaccinations plan was appropriate as two-thirds of Indiana's COVID-19 hospitalizations are of those ages 60 and older.

"Taking this by age eligibility, will keep this not just methodical, but it will eat into where we have the most vulnerable Hoosiers at risk," Holcomb said.

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