(The Center Square) – Louisiana residents who are at least 70 years old and some health care workers can begin scheduling appointments to receive COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.
The news comes as the state sets a record for the most new cases of the illness reported over 24 hours. Edwards did not announce any new restrictions to control the spread.
Edwards said the contact information for about 100 pharmacies that will have available vaccines will be posted on the Louisiana Department of Health’s website Monday.
At least 45,289 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Louisiana, though Edwards thinks the actual total is higher because many vaccinations have not yet been reported to the state. The federal government has made more than 210,000 doses available to Louisiana, state officials said.
Hospital personnel, residents and staff of long-term-care facilities, and emergency medical services workers (including those that work for fire departments) are first in line for the vaccines.
Starting Monday, residents who are 70 years old or older and people who work at ambulatory, outpatient, dental and behavioral health clinics can begin making appointments with registered pharmacies to get vaccinated. Federal recommendations, which Louisiana officials generally plan to follow pretty closely, set the age cutoff at 74 years. Edwards said in Louisiana age 70 has been a “clear demarcation” for higher risk of severe complications and death.
Clients and employees of end stage renal disease facilities, home health agency patients and personnel, and students and staff of allied health schools are next on the state’s list of priorities.
State officials can’t say how long it will take to vaccinate most members of the high-priority groups, in part because they don’t know how many doses they will get during a given week until the previous week. Next week, Louisiana officials expect the state to get about 28,275 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 27,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccines have been going to hospitals that have the ability to store them at the very cold temperatures necessary to keep them viable. Pharmacies will distribute most of the Moderna vaccines to long-term care facilities.
Only about 8,800 doses will be available for the new priority groups by appointment at registered pharmacies starting Monday, Edwards said, though more will be on the way during subsequent weeks. There are about 485,000 Louisiana residents who are 70 years old or older, he said.
“You’re not going to receive a vaccine dose if you don’t have an appointment,” he said, referring to long lines to get vaccinated in other states.
State officials reported 6,754 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the most new cases in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began. There were 51 new deaths reported, bringing the total of confirmed and probable COVID-19 fatalities to 7,448.
The proportion of COVID-19 tests that come back positive is up to 10.7 percent (officials would prefer to see a rate below 5 percent) and the number of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized is up to 1,717, officials report. (As of press time Dec. 31)