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Louisiana to pull thousands of vaccine doses from federal nursing home program, as feds plan to boost supply

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana will receive potentially thousands of extra doses of the coronavirus vaccine, steered to Walmart pharmacies under a program announced Tuesday by President Joe Biden’s administration.

Hours after the White House released its plan to distribute 1 million doses directly to retail pharmacies, Louisiana’s health department announced it has opted into the program, using 56 Walmart pharmacies around the state. The pharmacy initiative starts Feb. 11.

Whatever vaccine doses those Walmart pharmacies will start receiving through the federal program next week will come on top of the other Pfizer and Moderna doses shipped directly to the state each week to divvy up on its own. Health department officials said that’s why it made sense to participate, to boost the number of vaccine doses reaching arms in Louisiana.

Louisiana, like other states, currently receives a percentage of the vaccine doses sent to states based on its population. If that same percentage is used, the health department said Louisiana could receive an extra 14,000 doses through the Biden administration’s retail pharmacy program.

Those interested in trying to set up an appointment can find the list of Walmart pharmacy locations that will be participating on the state’s weekly vaccine location list, posted online. Those Walmart pharmacies started offering COVID-19 vaccines this week through the state’s regular weekly allocation of doses.

Meanwhile, the state also is redirecting 15,600 of the 93,600 vaccine doses it steered to a program to immunize people who live and work at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to instead be used by clinics, hospitals and pharmacies to help vaccinate the broader population of people 70 and older.

The nursing home program administered by CVS and Walgreens is moving more slowly than expected.

“Some doses have been sitting on shelves,” Health Secretary Courtney Phillips told a congressional committee Tuesday.

It wasn’t clear how quickly the 15,600 redirected vaccine doses would reach hospitals, clinics and pharmacies and be available for use.

More than 384,000 of Louisiana’s 4.6 million residents have received at least the first dose of the two-dose coronavirus vaccine so far, with nearly 104,000 people getting both doses, according to the latest data from the state health department. Louisiana ranked 15th among states Tuesday in the number of vaccine doses administered per capita, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re not satisfied with where we stand. We’re determined to keep getting better,” Phillips told the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Louisiana, like other states, has demand that greatly outstrips supply for the vaccine. Phillips said Louisiana has the capacity to give out many more vaccines through hospitals, clinics and pharmacies than it receives on a weekly basis.

The Biden administration increased allocations to states this week and pledged to boost that number further next week, in an effort to speed the vaccination effort.

Louisiana has confirmed nearly 8,400 deaths from the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the health department.

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