Listen Live

(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indiana will begin vaccinating 12-to-15-year-olds against COVID-19 Thursday morning.

The state will expand eligibility on its vaccine appointment portal at 8 a.m. to 360,000 Hoosiers in that age range, although appointments aren’t a requirement — you can get vaccinated on a walk-in basis. CVS pharmacies, which don’t use the state portal, have already started making appointments on their website and smartphone app, with shots to begin Thursday morning. The expansion follows a Wednesday green light from the Centers for Disease Control.

The Indiana State Department of Health is rushing to get clinics ready for the new group of patients. The Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are approved only for adults. Only Pfizer is approved for people under 18, and health department chief medical officer Lindsay Weaver says 30 of Indiana’s 92 counties don’t have any vaccine locations offering Pfizer. The state is delivering supplies of Pfizer directly to local health departments in those counties so they’re ready on day one. The state will also increase Pfizer shipments to the other 62 counties on Monday.

Weaver says the process of breaking the state’s bulk shipments of hundreds of vials of vaccine into smaller units for those counties will give the state a head start on the next phase of the vaccination drive: getting doses to pediatricians and family doctors to administer at their offices.

Kids have been less vulnerable to the virus than adults, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get infected. Nearly one in six Indiana COVID cases have been in people under 20. And a British study estimates among kids under 16 who do catch the virus, about one in seven get “long COVID,” with symptoms which linger for weeks or months after the virus itself is gone.

State health commissioner Kristina Box says there are other reasons teenagers should get the vaccine. If they’ve been vaccinated, they won’t have to quarantine if they come into close contact with an infected person. Box says that will eliminate the disruptions to schoolwork and extracurricular activities that have marred the last year. And she notes vaccinating teenagers leaves that many fewer places for the virus to spread to others who are more at risk, including those under 12 for whom a vaccine still hasn’t been approved.