(The Center Square) – COVID-19 vaccinations might begin in Louisiana as early as this weekend or next week, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.
Louisiana expects to receive about 39,000 doses in the first allocation from the federal government and about 40,000 the following week.
Hospital workers and emergency medical service personnel who work for ambulance services and fire departments will be first in line for the Pfizer vaccine. Residents and employees of nursing homes and assisted living centers will get the Moderna vaccine, which unlike the Pfizer option does not require ultra-cold storage.
More than 200,000 Louisiana residents are in those first groups, so getting everyone their first dose likely will take several weeks at least. The federal government will provide the follow-up doses needed to get the full benefit later.
In prioritizing vaccine distribution, Louisiana officials are following recommendations from the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Edwards expects to continue following ACIP guidelines going forward, though some adjustments may be made based on the state’s hospital patient population.
Though state officials have been preparing to distribute COVID-19 vaccines since the spring, they will have to make adjustments because “there are so many moving parts,” Edwards said.
Vaccines will not be broadly available for several months. In the meantime, the pandemic is likely to get worse before it gets better, state and federal officials say.
“We are in the middle of a dangerous third surge here in Louisiana,” Edwards said. “There really is light at the end of the tunnel. In the short term, that light is a freight train; it’s called the COVID surge coming at us. But there’s also the vaccine and the promise it holds for finally ending this pandemic.”
He urged residents to continue practicing COVID-19 mitigation, which includes frequent hand washing, wearing face coverings, avoiding crowds, and limiting contact with people who you don’t live with. He said no one over the age of 65 should be indoors anywhere where everyone is not wearing a mask.
Louisiana officials reported 2,542 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and 40 new deaths. At least 6,426 state residents with COVID-19 have died.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations stands at 1,529 and growing, which represents “a trajectory we cannot sustain for much longer” without threatening the health care system’s ability to deliver care without rationing, Edwards said.