After a slow start to COVID-19 vaccinations, Louisiana unveiled a list of more than 100 pharmacies Monday that will begin administering small quantities of the vaccine to the elderly and some other priority groups this week.
The state only has 10,500 doses of Moderna’s vaccine to deliver to pharmacies, and north of 640,000 people are eligible to receive them right off the bat. That means demand will likely greatly outstrip supply.
The pharmacies now included in the state’s mass vaccination effort span 51 parishes and include five in Baton Rouge, six in New Orleans and one in Lafayette. Forty-five chains like Walgreens and Albertsons along with 62 independent pharmacies and pharmacies tied to major health systems like Ochsner are included.
Now that Louisiana is receiving COVID-19 vaccines each week, the state Health Department is turning its focus to a crucial part of reaching he…
State officials say people will not be able to show up to the pharmacies without an appointment to get vaccinated. LDH spokesperson Aly Neel said the pharmacies need to be able to track each dose administered and don’t want long lines forming during a pandemic. Patients should reach out to the pharmacies to make appointments.
The pharmacies will only receive roughly 100 doses in the first batch, and the Health Department has already reported phone lines at pharmacies being tied up because of interest in the vaccine.
“With this first very limited allotment of vaccine, we’re not going to be able to vaccinate everyone this week,” Neel said.
Neel added not all pharmacies will get the vaccine immediately, but it will be shipped this week.
Gov. John Bel Edwards last week announced the state’s vaccination program–until now limited to hospitals and long-term care facilities like nursing homes–would expand to roughly 100 pharmacies. He also announced the next priority groups beyond Phase 1A.
“The number of vaccine doses we’re going to receive next week in order to start this is very very limited,” Edwards said during a New Year’s Eve press conference. “But it’s enough to get started to test the systems, to work out the kinks and so forth. And over time we fully expect the number of doses will increase dramatically. When that happens we want to have everything ready to go to be as efficient as we can be to administer and distribute these vaccines.”
He added that people in Phase 1A will also be eligible to receive vaccinations through the pharmacies.
The first part of Phase 1B, called Tier 1, are eligible to make appointments to get vaccinated at pharmacies starting this week. That includes people 70 and older, end stage renal disease facility personnel and patients, ambulatory and outpatient health care workers, home agency patients and workers and schools of allied health students, residents and staff.
The next tier of Phase 1B, which is not yet eligible, includes a host of other workers, including essential government response, “judiciary personnel,” corrections officers, K-12 school and daycare workers, postal workers, public transit workers and grocery store workers, among others. About 318,750 people will be eligible in that group. Federal judges, state district judges and Louisiana Supreme Court justices all wrote letters to the governor’s administration asking to be prioritized.
The CDC’s advisory panel issued relatively broad federal recommendations in December for the priority groups, saying states should expand the vaccine in Phase 1B to people aged 75 and older and essential workers like first responders, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, postal workers, public transit, grocery store workers, manufacturing and teachers. Phase 1C should include people aged 65 and older, those with underlying medical conditions and more essential workers.
Edwards said last week he would prioritize people with underlying health conditions sooner than federal recommendations but hasn’t spelled out the details. A higher share of Louisiana’s population has underlying health conditions than other states, making the prospect more difficult given the thin early supply of the vaccines.
In the first two weeks of vaccinations, Louisiana only administered 45,289 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, far from all the doses received. The state received 79,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine alone in the first two weeks. It is sent to hospitals because they are able to store it at the extremely cold temperatures needed, and has been used mostly to vaccinate health workers.
“Certainly I’m not pretending I’m ecstatic about the number of people we can confirm have been vaccinated,” Edwards said. “Nobody is happy with where we are right now and this is going to continue to improve.”
By the end of this week, Louisiana expects to have received more than 210,000 doses of vaccines, including 56,200 for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities through a federal program. The state releases the number of vaccines administered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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