As vaccine eligibility expands, Allen County health chief says we’re ‘edging closer to zero risk’

Coronavirus

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — On Tuesday the Indiana Department of Health announced it is expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to Hoosiers 55 and older.

“Every age group that we that we continue to get to with vaccines is another risk group kind of taken out of that risk pool, so it’s really good news,” said Dr. Matthew Sutter, the Allen County Health Commissioner. “People who are 50 to 55 and even people in their 40’s still can get hospitalized and die so it’s not that we’re to zero risk but we’re edging closer to that every day.”

Because the health department doesn’t know how many Allen County residents will choose to be vaccinated, it’s hard to determine exactly what percentage of the population will have received the vaccine now that this age group is eligible.

This announcement comes just a few days after the U.S.’s third coronavirus vaccine, manufactured by Johnson and Johnson, was approved. Dr. Sutter said most vaccine sites will just offer one type of vaccine to avoid complicating things.

“While there’s some different effectiveness numbers for the Johnson and Johnson compared to the Moderna and Pfizer when you look at hospitalizations and deaths, all of these are 100% effective,” said Dr. Sutter.

Dr. Sutter said the advantage of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is that it’s only one shot, so patients would not have to go back to a clinic for a follow up visit. Although its slightly less effective than the other two options in causing modern disease, Dr. Sutter says the risk is “no worse than just a bad cold” as far as experts know.

He recommends that once people become eligible and are able to get an appointment, they should get whichever vaccine that site has to offer.

“I think eventually people will not worry about this any more than they worry about which flu shot they get,” said Dr. Sutter. “There’s at least five different flu shots – I didn’t ask which one I was getting.”

Dr. Sutter said he anticipates an announcement during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly coronavirus response briefing Wednesday about when the next age group will be eligible.

“The states so far announced that they’ll continue doing age groups to 50, and I think they may continue doing age groups after that,” said Dr. Sutter. “As to what level that is, we just don’t know yet, but we’re hoping that every week or two another age group can be added.”

Dr. Sutter says he’s “very hopeful” that through the spring and into the summer, we should see enough of the vaccine to get all age groups vaccinated.

Eligible residents can schedule a vaccination on the health department’s website or by calling 211 if they do not have access to a computer or need assistance registering.

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