SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - City officials honored LSU Health Shreveport Friday morning for the hospital’s work in helping to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.
The City of Shreveport issued a proclamation Friday morning (Dec. 18).
Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins spoke at the event, thanking everyone at LSU Health Shreveport for their work in helping the community throughout the response to the pandemic.
Mayor Perkins said again that once it’s available to him, he will publicly get the vaccine himself to show the public his level of confidence in the safety of the vaccine, saying it’s “a vital part of Shreveport’s response to the pandemic and international community’s effort to bring the pandemic to an end.”
Mayor Perkins says the vaccine is highly effective, but only if people actually get it.
Lead doctors and researchers with LSU Health Shreveport spoke at the event about the safety of the virus, saying it’s 95% (or greater) effective in preventing the virus. One doctor called it “a watershed moment for humanity.”
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More than 44,000 people were enrolled in Pfizer’s trials for the vaccine, including in Shreveport. LSU Health Shreveport officials say they’ve seen mostly mild side effects from the vaccine similar to those caused by the flu vaccine. A few people have had anaphylactic reactions to the shot, so those receiving it are being monitored for at least 30 minutes after they receive it.
Health officials say the vaccine was produced so quickly because a lot of research has been done on the SARS family of viruses that has been used in the production of the COVID-19 vaccine. Three phases of trials, which typically take five to 10 years, were condensed into about 10 months thanks to research that has already been done.
Once widely available, the public is encouraged to get the vaccine in order to help bring about the end to the pandemic.
“It will be a long time before we reach herd immunity,” said Dr. Martha Whyte, regional health director for the Louisiana Department of Health.
Dr. Whyte also thanked everyone at LSU Health Shreveport for treating her husband when get became sick with the virus. He received numerous experimental treatments at LSU Health Shreveport. She says she believes he would not have survived had he been treated elsewhere.
“What a blessing to have the center here that they could do that for us, that they can do that for anyone,” Dr. Whyte said.
It’s not yet clear if the public will need to receive the vaccine every year like the flu shot, but right now, health officials believe once someone receives the vaccine, immunity will last at least a year.
Once healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities receive the vaccine, those next in line will likely be first responders.
“The safety of these vaccines in unparalleled. It doesn’t have a live virus in it, or a dead virus in it,” said one leading doctor.
Mayor Perkins has declared Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 as LSU Health Shreveport Day and encourages the public to celebrate the hospital and share their gratitude for the local heroes that work for the health system.
Even as LSU Health Shreveport is recognized for its contributions in the fight against COVID-19, behind the scenes there are increasing fears about the next holiday and what in means in the fight against the pandemic.
Dr. Whyte says the positivity rate for school-age children in Caddo Parish jumped from 11 to 18 percent after Thanksgiving, and she expects Christmas to deliver an even higher spike in cases.
“It’s an emotional, sentimental even bigger time to get together. And so I think we have to understand that now is not the time to do that. We are probably at the worst situation we’ve been in in this state as far as disease burden in our community.”
Dr. Whyte says northwest Louisiana has already stayed at a higher infection rate since restrictions began to ease.
“I think people said, ‘I’m done. I’m done.’ And people are dying because of it,” said Dr. Whyte.
That’s why LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor Dr. G.E. Ghali urges patience.
“We all love each other, we want to be close. We want to hug, we want to kiss. And so I would just caution everybody on that and try to maintain. All we need is a few more months of that.”
By then, Dr. Ghali says we should begin to see a return on vaccination efforts.
“The arrival of vaccines has led to rising expectations that sooner or later our lives will get back to normal. But exactly when that will be is the big question. Will it be a whole year from now?”
That’s the estimate from Dr. Ghali.
While there’s no word of an expected slow down in the next shipments of the Pfizer vaccine across the country, Dr. Ghali says fortunately the pharmaceutical giant has already been adding a bit more of the vaccine with each vile, which he says could stretch five doses to as much as six or seven.
“So potentially there’s about a 30 percent increase in the potential dosages that are already present in the available viles. So that could help counteract this temporary bump in the road regarding deployment of the vaccine,” said Dr. Ghali.
Dr. Whyte says we shouldn’t let the holidays become yet another anticipated ‘bump in the road’ with getting this pandemic behind us once and for all.
“It’s one year. We feel like it’s so because it seems so overwhelmingly long. But in the big scheme of things, the grand scheme, it’s one year.”
As for Dr. Ghali, he says herd immunity requires up to 75 percent of the public to be vaccinated, and does not see the public voluntarily reaching that level of their own - but hopes recovered patients can fill that gap.
With big questions remaining about exactly how and when this country will achieve some sort of herd immunity, one thing is for sure, until then we’ll still be required to wear masks and continue to social distance.