Georgia, Indiana and Texas on Tuesday were added to the list of states that have opened vaccine eligibility to all residents over the age of 16. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
March 23 (UPI) -- Georgia, Indiana and Texas have announced all residents 16 years of age and older will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the latest states to loosen restrictions on eligibility.
The three states' announcements on Tuesday follow President Joe Biden stating earlier this month that he will direct states to make all adults eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1.
Georgia said it would expand eligibility from Thursday, Texas said it would do so on Monday and Indiana said it would do so on March 31.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said states were told earlier Tuesday by the federal government to expect "large increases" in vaccine shipments beginning the last week of March.
"So on Wednesday, March 31, we'll plan to open up vaccine eligibility to all Hoosiers -- 16 years and older -- anticipating we'll receive additional doses of all three vaccines," he said during a press conference.
COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have been authorized for emergency use in the United States, with others under consideration.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp announced the expansion during a press conference, explaining the state has received the second fewest number of doses per 100,000 residents out of all states.
"We must always do better about getting shots into arms, there's no doubt about that, but we are also 49th out of 50 states in vaccines shipped to us by the federal government," he said, adding that it proves they have shipping issues.
In Texas, Department of State Health Services officials announced the expansion of eligibility following recommendations from the state's Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel on information that they expect vaccine supplies to increase next week.
"We are closing in on 10 million doses administered in Texas, and we want to keep up the momentum as the vaccine supply increases," Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services, said in a statement. "As eligibility opens up, we are asking providers to continue to prioritize people who are the most at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death -- such as older adults."
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas has administered 9.8 million doses for a rate of 33,954 doses per 100,000 people, Georgia has administered 3.2 million for a rate of 30,903 doses per 100,000 people and Indiana has administered 2.4 million for a rate of 36,353 doses administered per 100,000 people.
More than 128 million doses have been administered in the United States, with 45.5 million people being fully vaccinated, the federal agency said.
"With every dose, Texas gets closer to normal and protects more lives from COVID-19 hospitalization and death," the Texas DSHS tweeted Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Virginia and North Carolina eased restrictions.
In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam said as more people become vaccinated in the state certain sports and entertainment venues may begin to operate at additional capacity and gathering limits may increase from April 1.
"With increase vaccination capacity and our health metrics continuing to trend the right direction, we can safely take these targeted steps to ease certain mitigation measures," he said in a statement.
The limit on social gatherings will increase starting next month from 10 people indoors to 50 people and 25 people outdoors to 100.
The number of spectators allowed at sporting events will increase from 25 to 100 or 30% capacity, whichever is fewer, for indoor settings, and from 250 people to 500 or 30% capacity for outdoor settings.
"Virginians have come so far over the past year, and now is not the time to simply throw the doors open or let down our guard," Northam said. "While some capacity limits will be increased, we must all remember to stay vigilant and work together to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities."
In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper eased COVID-19 restrictions, including increasing the number of people who may gather indoors from 10 to 25 and moving the curfew on the sale of alcohol onsite from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
"Today's action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious," he said in a statement. "People are losing their loved ones each day."