Vaccinations for school personnel began last Thursday in West Baton Rouge Parish and are set to begin this Thursday, March 9 in Pointe Coupee Parish as part of the expansion in the latest phase of the COVID immunization process.
West Baton Rouge Parish Schools have partnered with Arbor Family Health, Our Lady of the Lake and Ochsner to provide vaccines to teachers and staff. So far the partnerships have resulted in more than 70 educators being vaccinated and vaccine offerings are ongoing. Superintendent Wes Watts expects to have close to half of the parish educators vaccinated by the end of next week.
The school district distributed a survey about a month ago with about 55% of faculty indicating they were interested in being vaccinated. Some staff members qualified due to age and other factors and were vaccinated independently, Watts said.
Teachers and other staff are not required to be vaccinated, but State Superintendent Cade Brumley said the vaccines will bring Louisiana K-12 public schools much closer to full face-to-face learning.
Arbor, which began administering the vaccine in early January, has averaged 100 to 200 vaccinations per week. The residents 55 and older had been the largest demographic to receive the vaccine, but those numbers are dwindling rapidly, according to Cindy Peavy, executive director for the Innis and Livonia clinics.
The clinic continues to use the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which require two rounds of immunization.
Peavy said she was not sure if or when they would receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 27.
“I don’t expect us to get it anytime soon,” she said. “If people can get it, I think that would be smart because of it being only one dose.”
The ice storm set back Arbor by 300 doses, but 500 arrived the following week, Peavy said.
Approximately 800 names remain on the waiting list, but some of those may have gotten the vaccines from other providers.
“We call them, and if they’ve already gotten it, we go to the next person on the list,” Peavy said.
Aside from schools, Arbor has reached out to businesses, including Alma Plantation in West Baton Rouge. Mobile outreach and mass vaccinations are among the future plans.
“We’re seeing a decrease in the number of positive COVID cases, which is promising, but at this point is trying to get the vaccinations moving,” Peavy said.
Much of the focus will shift toward the younger crowd – in most cases, far more active than the elderly.
“Young people are the ones who get out more and may not want to get on the list for vaccines,” she said. “Once things open up as we move into Phase 3, we will see if the cases increase, while older people are mainly staying home and hoping to get a family visit.
The school staff vaccinations may help bring the K-12 campuses back to pre-COVID activities, and the same approach may apply to other walks of life, Peavy said.
“To get schools reopen, it would really help to get all the teachers protected,” she said. “I know there are fears and reservation, but closures will continue until enough people are vaccinated so we don’t see shutdowns every time people are exposed to the virus.”