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ISDH, Walmart clarify COVID-19 vaccination eligibility for teachers after social media posts

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 4:40 PM, Feb 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-21 16:40:39-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Department of Health is clarifying its COVID-19 vaccination eligibility requirements and standby list policies after people posted to social media saying teachers weren't eligible to be vaccinated even though they were on standby lists or had appointments.

According to social media posts that went viral on Saturday, some local educators were under the impression they were eligible to join Walmart's standby lists, but later told they were removed from the list or had their appointments canceled after Walmart received more information from the state.

On Sunday, a Walmart spokesperson said the social media posts made about its "waste protocol policies are inaccurate."

Waste avoidance protocols, like the standby lists at each vaccination site in the state, are to help ensure doses don't go to waste.

"Walmart is proud to partner with the state to provide vaccinations to eligible Hoosiers," the spokesperson said. "Eligibility and Waste Avoidance Protocols are developed in collaboration with the state with the shared goal of never letting a dose go to waste."

Currently, only patient-facing healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents, people working in congregate living facilities for youth, first responders, and people 65 and older are eligible to get vaccinated in the state.

Special education teachers who provide specific assistance to students in the classroom during the school day are eligible to get vaccinated, according to ISDH. The specific assistance includes:

  • Daily medical care such as suctioning
  • G-tube feedings
  • Medication administration
  • Diabetic and wound care
  • Toileting

As noted by ISDH, these special education teachers have been eligible to get vaccinated. A letter from the teacher's school principal or administrator stating they meet the above criteria is required.

"It has come to our attention that there are entities incorrectly notifying groups that they meet eligibility criteria or that people are individually misinterpreting the criteria," ISDH Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver said in a Jan. 30 letter to vaccination sites. "We understand that this has put a tremendous strain on the sites that are left turning people away. COVID-19 vaccine supplies are currently limited nationally, which is why the Indiana Department of Health has outlined an approach to vaccine eligibility that focuses first on preventing hospitalizations, saving lives and protecting the most vulnerable Hoosiers. Therefore, we must all be steadfast in sticking to the outlined criteria."

Weaver asked vaccination sites to notify groups who were incorrectly told they qualified to get vaccinated their appointments were canceled and wouldn't be vaccinated if they arrived at the site.

On Sunday, ISDH released the following statement:

Never wasting a dose is of the utmost importance in the state’s vaccine plan. The Indiana Department of Health has never told a clinic to discard unused doses. We ask every clinic to keep a standby list of people who meet current eligibility requirements so that every dose can be administered, and only one one-hundredth of the doses we have received have been wasted, primarily due to a vial or syringe breaking.

We ask all vaccine clinics to follow the state’s eligibility requirements when administering vaccine, and the CDC states that pharmacies should follow state eligibility requirements. Indiana’s eligibility categories are determined based on their ability to prevent death and hospitalization, not profession. Currently, healthcare workers, first responders and Hoosiers age 65 and older are eligible to receive vaccine.

We are in constant communication with all of our vaccine sites and remind them of the state’s eligibility requirements and the need to follow them.

WRTV's request for comment from Gov. Eric Holcomb's office was referred to the Indiana State Department of Health.