Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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'We can see the end': Louisiana health officials prepare to distribute state's first COVID-19 vaccines

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BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Health is making sure all hospital workers, and nursing home residents and staff are accounted for before any COVID-19 vaccinations arrive.

The enrollment for those who are top priority has to be done quickly. The state could see truckloads of Pfizer vaccines here in just over a week.

“We can see the end, this is the end. This is what the end of the pandemic looks like. It’s getting the vaccine out,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, the Office of Public Health interim assistant secretary at LDH.

Dr. Kanter and state leaders are just waiting for the FDA to approve the Pfizer vaccine. A hearing will be held Dec. 10. Then, Dr. Kanter says it will only take a couple of days for those vaccines to arrive.

“Realistically, we could be receiving the vaccine here as early as Dec. 12 or 13,” he said.

Dr. Kanter said the vaccines will be arriving in truckloads, and they won’t be staying on any shelves. The vaccines will immediately go to the top-tier group, and it will take a few weeks for everyone to get one.

“Once it starts, we’re going to expect shipments on a weekly rhythm, because there’s only so many personnel out there that can go administer a vaccine at a nursing home for example,” Dr. Kanter said.

LDH says it is unclear just how many hospital workers will be included in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution, but plans are already in motion for those working or living in long-term care facilities.

The following will receive a vaccine in phase 1A:

- 25,000 nursing home residents
- 30,000 nursing home staff
- 18,000 others

Others include:

- Skilled nursing facilities
- Intermediate care/developmentally delayed facilities
- Adult residential care facilities
- State-run veterans homes

A total of 73,000 long-term care facility residents and staff.

Until then, LDH will be busy enrolling health care workers and nursing home residents into the system. In order for the federal government to ship out the vaccines, they need to have information on who will be getting it first. Dr. Kanter says the enrollment process is nearly complete.

As for when the general public will be able to get vaccinated, experts say that will be closer to mid-summer. When we get to that point, though, Dr. Kanter says the vaccine will be easily accessible.

“They’ll be able to go to a local pharmacy, they’ll be able to go to their doctor's office, there might be some community event in their town as well. So they’ll have options.”

Dr. Kanter is excited we could soon see those options come to fruition.

“To have two vaccines that are that efficacious 94 to 95 percent within 12 months of even discovering that the virus existed is the most scientific feat I’ve ever heard of,” he said.

LDH is emphasizing that since the nation is seeing a third surge of COVID-19, people need to continue wearing masks and social distancing until everyone can get a vaccine.


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