Under a new federal directive, Hoosier teachers will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines at certain pharmacies, a shift in a state that spent months defending its age-based vaccination plan.
Teachers who are not eligible for vaccines based on age through the state will only be able to get vaccinated at pharmacies in the federal program, including Kroger, Meijer, and Walmart, said Gov. Eric Holcomb at a briefing Wednesday.
Educators should schedule directly with the pharmacies rather than through the state website or phone system. A list of sites is available on the state website.
If a teacher lives in a county without one of those pharmacies, Holcomb said, “you might have to go a county over if you’re a teacher because you are eligible under that federal program.”
Teachers who are not eligible based on the state criteria will not be able to go to other sites, such as hospitals and mass vaccination locations.
Vaccines earmarked for educators are separate from the overall allocation the state receives, said Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver.
The announcement comes a day after President Joe Biden said he wants every teacher, school staffer, and child care worker in the U.S. to get at least one shot in March.
The details are still uncertain because Indiana officials first learned of the federal effort at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, Holcomb said.
Vaccine eligibility for Indiana’s 79,000 teachers has been controversial for months. As of this week, 34 states, including all of Indiana’s neighbors, are vaccinating at least some teachers, according to Education Week.
“Age is the single biggest factor that contributes to your risk,” said Holcomb. By prioritizing certain professions for vaccines, “you’ll be pushing some out who are more at risk.”
Currently, Hoosiers 50 years old and older — along with those with certain health conditions that make them vulnerable to complications from the coronavirus — are eligible for the vaccine at any of the state’s nearly 400 sites. About 20,000 teachers are currently eligible for vaccines because they meet age criteria, Holcomb said.
The state plans to continue its age-based approach to eligibility, which officials say aims to reduce hospitalizations and deaths. Next, people ages 40 to 50 will be eligible, state officials said. That will make another 18,000 teachers eligible at any location, Holcomb said.
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.