State addresses the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations; expects faster pace as holidays end

Updated: Jan. 1, 2021 at 5:52 PM CST
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A patient receives a vaccine.
A patient receives a vaccine.(WVIR)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana entered 2021 with three weeks’ worth of coronavirus vaccinations completed but getting the shots into the arms of people is not as easy rolling up a sleeve.

Dr. Joe Kanter is the new State Health Officer and Louisiana Department of Health Medical Officer.

“The challenges are that it’s a complex operation,” said Kanter.

As the virus claims more lives in Louisiana and around the nation the pace of vaccinations is drawing criticism. The federal government oversees getting vaccines to states, but when doses arrive it is not by a snap of a finger that they are administered.

“I think we all wish that the second a plane or a truck of vaccine enters the state line that it just immediately gets administered into people’s arms, but it’s just not like that. Most of these either go directly to a hospital or go centrally to a staging area, get subdivided, get processed, and get distributed out to other entities,” said Kanter.

So far, Louisiana has received hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

“At the conclusion of this week, there will have been a total of 210,350 doses, 210,350 doses allocated to Louisiana. Of those, 56,200 are earmarked for the Long-Term Care Partnership Program, CVS, and Walgreens,” Kanter said.

Those pharmacies continue to vaccinate nursing home residents in Louisiana and have a say on when doses of the vaccine arrive.

“Those don’t actually come to Louisiana until those two pharmacies draw them down themselves, so they kind of get earmarked into a separate pot,” said Kanter.

To vaccinate all of the people who want shots will take months and the state and by extension, local hospitals are not getting much advance notice on when new shipments of the vaccines are coming down to Louisiana.

“To just think about what it’s like for a hospital or a clinic, that’s the end user here, the vaccinator, they really don’t know how much they’re going to receive until sometimes that morning, maybe the night before because the state doesn’t know what we get allocated until a few days before,” said Kanter.

And Governor John Bel Edwards is reminding the public that two separate doses of the vaccines are required.

“You’re not considered vaccinated until you receive the second dose, and you don’t achieve the full, maximum amount of immunity that you’re going to have until 10 to 14 days after that second dose,” said Edwards.

And the public is urged to be patient.

“When they get into an end-user, say shipped to a hospital or a clinic they have to be logged, have to be counted, stored appropriately then when it becomes time to use it, they have to be reconstituted and prepared,” said Kanter.

They expect the pace of vaccinations to pick up as 2021 progresses.

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