(The Center Square) – Louisiana might reach herd immunity against COVID-19 by next fall, a state health official said Friday.
When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection – or “herd immunity” – to those who are not immune. State officials say Louisiana will reach herd immunity when 70 percent of the population is immune to COVID-19.
While vaccinations will be limited to certain classes of workers and vulnerable people for the first few months because of the limited supply of vaccines, the general public hopefully will be able to get vaccinated at a doctor’s office or pharmacy by the summer, Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health said.
Kanter addressed Friday’s meeting of the Resilient Louisiana Commission, which Gov. John Bel Edwards has charged with coming up with ways to help Louisiana’s economy bounce back after the pandemic.
Kanter said LDH estimates about 10-12 percent of the state’s population has already been infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. He hopes that will help to get to the 70 percent mark, though he can’t say for sure because experts aren’t certain about how long people who have had the coronavirus remain resistant to the illness.
He also hopes future vaccines are less delicate than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first one the federal government approved, which has to be kept in “ultra-cold storage” that a doctor’s office or pharmacy cannot provide.
Louisiana received its first 39,000 doses this week. Economist Jim Richardson pointed out that 70 percent of Louisiana’s population is more than three million people.
“Thirty-nine thousand a week is not going to do it,” Richardson said.
The first people to get vaccinated in Louisiana work in tier 1 hospitals, which have the equipment to store the vaccine. Residents and employees of nursing homes and assisted living facilities and emergency medical transport personnel will begin getting vaccinated once the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t need as extremely cold storage, is available. Between 205,000 and 235,000 Louisiana residents are in those categories, Kanter said.
Edwards said governors won’t be told how many doses their states will get in any given week until the preceding Friday, which makes it hard to say when other groups will have their chance.
Kanter said workers at tier 2 hospitals that provide long-term care will be vaccinated in the next few weeks. First responders and people at high risk of developing serious complications because of their age and/or underlying health conditions will be in the next group, he said.
David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for The Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.