As Louisiana's vaccine supply remains 'flat,' Ochsner postpones thousands of vaccinations
BATON ROUGE - Ochsner Health System says it has administered roughly 86,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the six weeks since vaccinations began. Now, the state's largest hospital system says its share of doses is dropping.
"It's been about a 70% decline in the vaccine supply from where we are today versus where we were several weeks ago," CEO Warner Thomas said.
Each week, Ochsner receives vaccine allocations for three areas: south Louisiana, north Louisiana, and Lafayette.
For the week of January 18, Ochsner received 3,900 doses for South Louisiana. This week, that allocation was cut in half to 1,950 doses. Ochsner's North Louisiana operation received 975 doses both this week and last. Ochsner's Lafayette facility, which received 975 doses last week, is slated to get zero this week.
"Given the supply of vaccine that we're getting, we've decided to, essentially, cancel all our appointments," Thomas said Monday during a conference call with reporters. "We will put everybody on a waiting list, and as we have vaccine available, we'll schedule folks and get them their first dose."
Those cancellations, Thomas says, have affected 21,400 people. So far, about 10% of those appointments have been rescheduled.
The Our Lady of the Lake hospital system says it has not had to cancel or postpone any vaccine appointments, as of Monday, and expects to receive 2,100 doses this week for its locations statewide.
While Ochsner is seeing a drop in the number of doses it is getting, the state is trying to make the most of its weekly allocations, which have been stuck at 58,150 doses this week and last, with similar amounts expected to continue for four to five weeks. Louisiana officials say the focus is to distribute doses based on population.
"We don't think we're going to get substantially more vaccine in the near future, but we are trying to allocate to the whole state," Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health said during a virus briefing Friday. "Just because a provider got some one week, unfortunately, we aren't able to guarantee how much they're going to get the next week."
In the case of Ochsner, Kanter says they 'tried to line things up' when scheduling appointments that have now been postponed.
Short-lived plans from the Trump administration to release all vaccine doses in storage, which turned out not to be the case, caused additional confusion and expectation, Kanter added.
While some state officials were already expecting to have seen an increase in weekly allocations for Louisiana, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks 12th among states and Washington D.C. in doses administered per 100,000 residents, Gov. John Bel Edwards says they will come eventually.
"Our plan as a country, and as a state, is premised on increasing allocations over time," Edwards said. "I still believe that's going to happen, but it's been a little bit slower than, obviously, we would like."
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