(The Center Square) – Louisiana officials will work with local partners to deploy “mobile vaccine teams” to areas with little access to health care, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Courtney Phillips said Tuesday.
In a congressional subcommittee hearing held remotely, Phillips said Louisiana is prepared to distribute more COVID-19 vaccine doses as they are made available.
“We’re ready,” Phillips said. “I think most states are.”
President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday a 5% increase in the number of vaccine doses the federal government will distribute to states this week. This represents a 22% increase since Biden took office and will be the minimum supply level for the next three weeks, administration officials said.
The Biden administration also said it would begin sending vaccine doses directly to pharmacies. Louisiana already includes pharmacies as part of its distribution plan. Of the 1,919 providers enrolled in Louisiana’s plan, however, only 613 have gotten any vaccine doses because of the limited supply, Phillips said.
She said 90% to 95% of the doses Louisiana gets are in arms within a week and the state ranks 18th in the number of residents vaccinated per 100,000. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers show Louisiana has received 648,925 doses and administered 463,179. Phillips said the CDC’s stats are misleading because they include doses being held back for the patient’s second dose, which is needed to get the full benefit, and doses sent for the federal government’s public-private nursing home program, which states do not control.
State officials said last week only 26% of nursing home workers had taken advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated through the federal program. Phillips said the state has been able to redirect some of those doses to the broader community and continued flexibility in the program would be appreciated.
Phillips also praised the federal government’s recent efforts to let states know three weeks out how many doses they can expect to get on a weekly basis, which helps with planning. Federal officials previously had given states one week of notice.
She also thanked Congress for its financial support, which she said is still very much needed for the COVID-19 response.
“The recent notification of the 100% FEMA reimbursement has provided great relief to our public health team, coupled with the 100% Louisiana National Grant reimbursement and the second tranche of federal grant funds has been the resources needed for us to adequately respond to this pandemic,” Phillips said in her prepared remarks.
As of Jan. 30, Louisiana had been allocated 438,100 first doses, with 93,600 diverted to the federal program, leaving 344,500 available for in-state allocation, Phillips said. The federal government sent 67,350 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Louisiana this week, up from 58,150 doses last week.