(The Center Square) – When COVID-19 vaccine doses became available, Louisiana officials rationed their limited supply by focusing vaccination efforts on high-risk individuals and key professions.
State officials now have shifted gears to meet a very different challenge: trying to convince as many people as possible to get vaccinated while making it easier for them to do so.
“We are trying very hard to meet people where they are,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
Louisiana has set up a hotline – the number is 855-453-0774 – to help people set up appointments and allow them to get questions answered. Community vaccination events are planned in every region of the state this weekend.
The federal government recently partnered with the state to open a mass vaccination site where appointments are not necessary in Baton Rouge, but demand at it has fallen short of what officials had hoped for, despite sending more than 57,000 mailers to area households.
“We have enough supply for anyone that wants it,” said Dr. Joe Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health.
Kanter said officials did not draw down as many doses as they could have this past week because the demand wasn’t there to justify the full amount. Kanter expects Louisiana’s vaccine allocation next week will be the same as this week’s: 69,030 of Pfizer-BioNTech and 50,700 of Moderna, plus 60,000 doses the federal government will send directly to pharmacies.
All of those are first doses; recipients will require a follow-up dose. Kanter said he was looking forward to the federal government resuming distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires a single dose to be effective.
More than 2.5 million doses have been administered in Louisiana, and more than 1.1 million residents are fully vaccinated, according to state officials. The state’s population is approximately 4.65 million.
About 41% of residents age 18 or older have gotten at least one dose, including about 74% or residents age 65 and older, Kanter said.
“We have a long way to go,” he said.
David Jacobs 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.