SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - As essential workers throughout Louisiana begin lining up to get the COVID-19 vaccine, LSU Health Shreveport is making some changes to become more accommodating to those wanting a shot.
Many essential workers clock in and out during irregular hours, have families to tend to or might not live near a vaccination site in northwest Louisiana.
“There are plenty of days where the afternoons are pretty quiet and there aren’t people coming,” said Dr. John Vanchiere, an LSU Health Shreveport pediatric infectious disease specialist who is spearheading vaccination efforts throughout the region. “I recognize that sometimes that’s the reality of people working.”
Some of the groups newly eligible to get the vaccine as of Monday include grocery store workers, transportation workers, postal workers, food service workers and members of the media. See a full list here.
“We are adjusting our strategy to accommodate more folks to come,” Vanchiere said. “I would like to see longer lines and more people there getting vaccinated. And we have (the) capacity to vaccinate more than 2,000 or 2,500 people per day.”
For instance, a vaccine clinic is taking place Tuesday evening at the former Chevyland dealership, located at 2627 Linwood Ave., from 5-9 p.m. with hopes of reaching more people after they get off work. Another clinic is occurring Saturday at the Louisiana State Fair Grounds from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., when some people might not be working.
“We are encouraging folks and employers to let people get out of work a little bit early to come get vaccinated,” Vanchiere said.
Delivering the vaccine directly to rural communities, or pockets of northwest Louisiana without strong access to health care, also remains a priority, as more are able to access a shot — especially if there is a longer drive time to Shreveport-Bossier City.
“We want to as quickly as we get vaccine to get it out, and we don’t want to be sitting on vaccine,” Vanchiere added. “We’ve been going to Arcadia, we’ve been going to Minden, we’ve been down to Logansport.”
Of course, Vanchiere and his team are taking into consideration the extra or longer hours being required from his staff, some of whom might not be as flexible as others, simply due to other daily priorities.
“Some of our staff have children who are in school or daycare, so they might not be able to work on weekends. So we are making accommodations and bringing on new staff as needed to meet the times for people who are eligible now,” he explained.
Vanchiere stated that LSU Health Shreveport is vaccinating around 8,000 people per week, but he wants to see that number nearly double as the floodgates to the general public slowly open.
While demand was once far higher than supply, Vanchiere said, that ratio has balanced out — for now.
“Those who are very anxious to get vaccine have already been vaccinated. We have good supply for the new wave of those who are eligible,” he added. “We are comfortable where we are. But right now, we just want to encourage people to get vaccinated.”