All Louisiana residents aged 16 years or older with conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 can get the vaccine now.
Gov. John Bel Edwards made the announcement of "probably the worst-kept secret" at a press conference this afternoon.
The conditions include: asthma, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, COPD, cystic fibrosis, down syndrome, heart conditions like failure, coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathies, hypertension, immunocompromised state from transplants, immunodeficieny, HIV, use of steroids or other immune-weakening medicines, obesity, severe obesity, pregnancy, pulmonary fibrosis, dementia, sickle cell disease, smoking, type I and II diabetes, blood disorders. For a list of conditions and locations, go to covidvaccine.la.gov.
Only Pfizer is authorized for 16 and 17 year-olds, so people that age must make sure they're getting that vaccine, he said.
"We are literally in a race with the virus, and that's one of the reasons we're expanding access to the virus at this time," the governor said. "Our goal is to not have any vaccines sitting on a shelf anywhere any longer than is necessary."
The expansion takes effect immediately, he says. That's the reason the presser was held earlier in the week than usual, he said.
"Remember when we told you that we won't call you in early unless we have a reason to? This is one of those times," Edwards said.
Since today is the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID in Louisiana, Edwards also reflected on the numbers.
"Since then, more than 430,000 cases in have been confirmed in Louisiana and more than 6.1 million tests administered. You can remember how hard it was to get the testing program up and running," he said. "We're getting close to 10,000 people in Louisiana who have died. This has been a year of great loss and heartbreak, but we have come a long way since that first case a year ago. Most important, we now have three safe and effective vaccines, and for that we can be very thankful. Indeed, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The number of people who have completed their vaccine now exceeds the number of people who have had it."
Sunday, which marks the one-year anniversary of the first COVID death in Louisiana, will be a statewide day of remembrance and prayer, he said.
"Let's do that together. Let's get through this as quickly as we can, together," Edwards said.
The governor also talked about the President's approval of his request for a disaster declaration in the state related to the winter storms. You can read about that here. The governor said he's "very grateful" for that declaration, and hopes that outstanding requests also are granted.
Louisiana State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter discussed the CDC's guidance for fully vaccinated people, which was released yesterday. Fully vaccinated means you are 14 days after the second dose for Moderna and Pfizer shots, or 14 days out from the single-dose J&J vaccine.
Here is the guidance, he says:
If you're in a small group with other fully-vaccinated people, you don't need to mask or socially distance, as long as no one in the group has symptoms.
If someone fully vaccinated is visiting with one family unit who is not fully vaccinated, and no one in the family unit is showing any symptoms or is high risk, they do not need to mask or distance. If there are multiple family units that aren't vaccinated, then everyone still has to mask and distance.
Once you're fully vaccinated, if you're in contact with a known case of COVID, you don't need to quarantine.
There's a growing body of evidence showing that the vaccine not only prevents individual from getting sick and dying, but also reduces the chance of asymptomatic infection and transmission to others, he said.
Medical officials till are asking that everyone:
Wear a mask, distance and wash hands while in public
Continue to mask, distance and wash hands while visiting unvaccinated people who are at risk
Continue to mask and distance when you meet with people in multiple households.
Continue to avoid large gatherings where you can't distance
continue to get tested if you have symptoms
Continue to follow workplace guidance
Continue to follow CDC travel recommendations.
"Guidelines of this nature are never going to be absolute," he said. "If you have concerns, it's never wrong to be more conservative, or to be more safe. But I think this allows families who are vaccinated to get a little normalcy back."
He added that more than 100 cases in Louisiana have either been confirmed or are suspected in Louisiana. A new study has shown that there is some data showing that the vaccines are effective against the variants, he said.
"That's all the more reason why we have to work as hard as we can to get the vaccine out as quickly as possible," he said. "If you have just become eligible, don't pass up the opportunity to get vaccinated."
KATC will live stream the 12 pm press conference on KATC, katc.com, Facebook and all other streaming platforms.
A live stream will be provided below when the presser begins.
As of March 8, 2021 the Louisiana Department of Health lists these criteria for Louisianans to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Eligibility by Age or Condition
- People 65 and older
- Dialysis providers and patients
- Pregnant people
- People 55-64 with at least one of the conditions listed by the CDC as placing them at an “increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19." Persons with the following qualifying underlying medical conditions are advised to complete the Louisiana COVID-19 Vaccine Attestation Form, before their appointment, to receive the vaccine:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30kg/m2 or higher but < 40kg/m2 )
- Severe obesity (BMIC >40kg/m2 )
- Severe neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Eligibility by Workforce Category
- Ambulatory and outpatient providers and staff
- Dialysis providers
- Behavioral health providers and staff
- Urgent care clinic providers and staff
- Community care providers and staff
- Dental providers and staff
- Non-emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) providers and staff
- Professional home care providers (including hospice workers) and home care recipients (including older and younger people with disabilities over the age of 16 who receive community or home-based care, as well as clients of home health agencies)
- American Sign Language (ASL) and foreign language interpreters and Support Service Providers (SSPs) working in community and clinic-based settings, and clients who are both deaf and blind
- Health-related support personnel (lab staff, mortuary staff who have contact with corpses, pharmacy staff)
- Schools of allied health students, residents and staff
- Law enforcement and other first responders
- Louisiana Unified Command Group
- State Legislators
- State and local essential COVID emergency response personnel
- Some elections staff ahead of March and April elections
- Teachers and any other support staff working on site in K-12 or daycare
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