In a New Year's Eve press conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards provided an update on the state's response to COVID-19 and vaccine distribution in Louisiana.
"We need to get as many Louisianans vaccinated as possible," Edwards said at the start of the press conference.
On a hopeful note, Gov. Edwards said that Louisiana will receive the Moderna vaccine starting next week. The doses will be limited, but enough to get started, he said. The state expects the doses to increase as time goes on.
Vaccines have been distributed to long term personnel, safe and nursing homes, along with first responders (firefighters, EMS, Police) This group is called 1-A.
Edwards announced on Thursday that doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to pharmacies statewide in limited supply beginning January 4 to be administered to people 70 and older and additional health care workers.
The governor's office said that the initial supply of vaccine will be extremely limited and people must contact a designated pharmacy to make appointments before going in to be vaccinated.
Only people in Priority Group 1-B, Tier One, which is people 70 years and older and ambulatory and outpatient health care personnel, will be able to get the COVID vaccine at a designated pharmacy. Appointments are required. And residents are asked not show up to a pharmacy for a vaccine without one.
Beginning Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health will list pharmacies where the COVID vaccine is available on its website, covidvaccine.la.gov.
In the initial Phase 1B roll out, LDH said they anticipate that approximately 100 pharmacies in 52 parishes will receive around 10,500 doses total in the first week. Each eligible pharmacy will receive approximately 100 doses.
“I am relieved to end this year by expanding access to the COVID vaccine to more Louisianans, though I know we have a long road ahead of us before we put this pandemic in our rear view mirrors,” Gov. Edwards said. “I hope all Louisianans will consider taking this safe and effective vaccine when it is their turn to get it, because that is how we will ultimately reach herd immunity and get our lives back to some form of normalcy. Already we have lost more than 7,400 people in our state to this terrible virus, and new cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. This vaccine is a new weapon we have in the fight against COVID, but to be effective people must take it. In addition, we have outlined how we will proceed with the next tier of people in line, so that people may plan for the future.”
In the first two weeks of vaccination, 45,289 Louisianans have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is safe and effective against the virus. A second dose must be administered for people to gain fuller protection from COVID, according to the governor's office.
So far, 210,350 doses have been allocated for Louisiana, of which 56,200 have been designated for the federal Long Term Care Facilities partnership and reside with Walgreens and CVS. Vaccinations for residents and staff of long term care facilities, such as nursing homes, just started this week.
PRIORITY GROUPS IN LOUISIANA
Within priority groups and tiers there is no particular sequencing.
Priority Group 1-A: Ongoing (around 249,000 eligible people)
- Health care workers at Tier 1 and Tier 2 hospitals
- Staff and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
- Emergency Medical Services employees and firefighters
Priority Group 1-B, Tier One: Starts Monday, January 4, 2021 (around 640,000 eligible people)
- Schools of allied health students, residents and staff
- End stage renal disease facility personnel and patients
- Home agency patients and personnel
- Ambulatory and outpatient health care personnel
- Persons 70 years old and older
Priority Group 1-B, Tier Two: Starts at a later date (around 318,750 eligible people)
- Health-related support personnel (labs, mortuary, pharmacy)
- Essential governmental response personnel
- Judiciary personnel
- Department of Homeland Security personnel, National Guard (non-COVID deployed), federal intelligence and security personnel, military personnel
- First responders not covered in Phase 1A
- Corrections officers and jailers
- Medical transportation services
- Homeless shelter and other congregate group home/center staff
- K-12 school and daycare personnel
- Food processing and agricultural workers
- Postal personnel
- Public transit workers
- Grocery store workers and other deemed frontline essential workers
The state is in it's third week of administering vaccinations to residents and essential healthcare workers. You are not considered vaccinated until the second dose is received . That is 21 days from the first vaccine administration. After the second dose, full effectiveness is believed to be achieved 10 days after being administered.
"This is a very safe and effective vaccine. We have, to my knowledge, not had a single negative effect from the virus in the state," Edwards said.
The most effective tool, Edwards says, is still the mask. The vaccine is still not available to everyone in the state.
In regards to COVID-19 cases, Edwards says that positivity rate is increasing in the state. Wednesday's COVID-19 updated reported the highest number of cases in the state at 6,754.
"I am imploring people, it is never too late to do the right thing. Be responsible and take the health of others and yourself seriously."
Speaking about the restrictions in place, Edwards said the state is not at the point where there needs to be any additional restrictions or changes.
"We are always evaluating this. Whether we have to do this or not is up to the people of Louisiana, collectively," Edwards said.
Concerning a question on the availability and the swiftness of the vaccines being administered, Edwards says that the state is trying to minimize the time in which the vaccine is being stored. He said that they want to minimize any waste of the vaccine.
When asked when he would get the vaccine, he stated that when the group that he fits into (most likely state and local officials group) can receive the vaccine he will. He says that he will wait his turn to make sure that others who need the vaccine receive theirs first. He says he is unsure of when that will be.
Edwards, before starting to speak about COVID and the vaccines in Louisiana spoke about Congressman-elect Luke Letlow who recently passed following complications from COVID-19. Read more here.
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