Local health officials prepare to administer COVID-19 vaccines to area’s youngest

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Local health officials are preparing to start administering COVID-19 vaccines to Bartholomew County’s youngest residents after state officials expanded eligibility to children as young as 6 months.

Indiana expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to children ages 6 months or older on Tuesday, just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccines for the youngest of children.

The move makes nearly all Bartholomew County residents eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. There were an estimated 5,463 children younger than 5 in the county in 2020.

The Indiana Department of Health said the shots for children ages 6 months to 5 years are now available at some providers in the state. Initial sites include private health care providers, local health departments and some hospitals and pharmacies.

Columbus Regional Health, for its part, is working to “get everything in place” before the doses arrive and anticipates starting vaccinating children ages 6 months to 5 years at some point within the next week, said CRH spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue.

CRH plans to make the shots available at all practices that see pediatric patients, DeClue said.

“We’re getting everything in place on the back end to be ready to go when the vaccine arrives on site,” DeClue added. “We’re still not exactly sure when that will be, but we anticipate within the week.”

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) is urging Indiana parents seeking COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months to 5 years to contact the vaccine site listed at www.ourshot.in.gov or call 211 for assistance prior to visiting a vaccine provider to ensure vaccine is available and that no appointment is required. Although some sites may be able to accommodate walk-ins, many sites, including pharmacies and hospitals, indicated Tuesday afternoon that they are requiring appointments due to limited initial supplies of vaccine.

“We recognize that there is pent-up demand among parents eager to protect our youngest Hoosiers, but because vaccines are still arriving in Indiana for this age group, we ask for a little more patience to allow supply to catch up with demand,” said IDOH Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver, M.D., FACEP. “As with every stage of vaccine rollout, we will see increased availability in the coming days as more doses arrive in the state.”

For the complete story, see Wednesday’s Republic.