Some in Louisiana could get COVID-19 vaccine before year's end
BATON ROUGE - Recent news surrounding the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine candidates from Pfizer and Moderna is "exciting" and shows the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel, a Louisiana Department of Health official said Monday.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, says a very small group of Louisianians could receive a vaccine in 2020.
"You know, I do think there's a decent likelihood that we'll see some vaccine administered before the new year," Kanter said.
Once Louisiana receives its first round of doses, Kanter says, those on the front lines of the pandemic will be the first to be vaccinated.
"Think of emergency department workers, or ICU workers, who are caring and interacting with COVID patients on a daily basis," Kanter said.
First responders, essential workers and those considered to be high risk should they contract the virus, will be next in line.
It's not clear when those groups could get the vaccine, because Louisiana still doesn't know how many doses it will be given, though LDH has been planning for several scenarios.
"We might not know right up until we get that allotment," Kanter said. "The team is really planning for a number of different contingencies, anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 doses up to a couple hundred thousand doses."
The group of high risk individuals who will be among the first to get vaccinated could include more people than might be expected under that description.
"It's not just people who are 65 years of age and older," Kanter said. "But it's people that have an underlying health condition, like kidney disease, like diabetes, and a number of other ones. And in a state like Louisiana where we struggle with our health rankings every year, I think we unfortunately have more of those individuals than other states do."
With doses of vaccine already being manufactured under Operation Warp Speed, Kanter says the first allotment is anticipated be shipped to states 24 hours after a vaccine candidate gets approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Until a vaccine becomes widely available -- possibly late spring or summer -- it will be very clear who is eligible for the earliest vaccinations.
Even if Pfizer and Moderna both get approval for their respective vaccines, Kanter says the current time frame for reaching everyone won't be shorter.
"I don't think that having multiple types of vaccine speeds up the process anymore than it already is, because that's been the planning assumption the whole time," Kanter said.
Facilities and groups administering the vaccine will do it free of charge, whether its from a hospital, pharmacy or vaccine event.