FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - Fort Wayne's NBC News talked with a Fort Wayne man who has a comorbidity after he learned he is now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
On Wednesday, Governor Eric Holcomb and state health officials announced Hoosiers who are 50 years old or older are eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine.
According to state health officials, this expansion of eligibility makes the vaccine available to an additional 412,000 Hoosiers. Hoosiers who are 50 years old and older account for just over 35% of the state’s population, but represent 80% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 98% of all COVID-19 deaths, state health officials said.
The announcement comes a day after the Governor announced Hoosiers who are 55 years old or older could get the shot.
The sudden news surprised 50-year-old Byron Thomas of Fort Wayne.
"Is this real? Did he make a mistake? Did he misspeak?" said Thomas.
Thomas told Fort Wayne's NBC News that the announcement made him feel grateful for several reasons.
Thomas said his grandmother died from COVID-19 last year. After the tragic incident, he said he personally understands how the virus can hurt families.
Thomas added that he also has health problems including high blood pressure.
"It scared me," Thomas said. "It has kept me from doing things I'd like to do because I can't risk putting myself out there and being exposed out there."
However, that fear has changed into hope.
Thomas scheduled his vaccine appointment right after the Governor's announcement for March 24th, he said.
He said the decision was to protect himself, but also the people in his life.
"It's not only about you," Thomas said. "It's about your family and their protection. It's about your neighbor's protection. It's about the people you encounter in every day life. It's about their protection. You can be that person that stops that transmission by getting that vaccine."
Governor Holcomb has faced some criticism from some who say teachers should be prioritized to get vaccinated. On Wednesday, Holcomb announced that the federal government is working on a program to get teachers vaccinated. He said the "Federal Retail Pharmacy Program" is partnering with pharmacies to allow all teachers to get the shot.