COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States. More than 7,600 Louisianans died from COVID in 2020 — that’s more than the number of deaths caused by accidents, stroke and diabetes combined in Louisiana in 2017. The vaccines against this virus are a critical tool in ultimately ending the pandemic and getting our lives back to normal.
Everyone in Louisiana will have the opportunity to get vaccinated. The state is looking to the prioritization guidance from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and then tailoring that guidance to Louisiana’s context and needs.
The first round of vaccines in Louisiana (Phase 1A) is being given to hospital personnel, residents and staff of nursing home/long-term-care facilities, and frontline responders to serve as vaccinators (emergency medical services, fire personnel and law enforcement).
As of January 4, 2021, the vaccine is available in a very limited amount to any and all of the following groups (Phase 1B, Tier 1):
On January 12, the federal government announced major changes to the national COVID-19 vaccination strategy, including opening up priority groups to include people ages 65 or older, people with underlying conditions, and releasing all available doses. Just as it did with ACIP recommendations, the Department of Health will closely study the effect changes will have on Louisiana residents, especially vulnerable populations. The appropriate administration of second doses remains a top priority. This is an ongoing discussion; no changes have been made in Louisiana. As of now, only people 70 years old and older are eligible to be vaccinated.
In no particular order, the next groups who will be eligible to receive the vaccine (Phase 1B, Tier 2) are:
LDH will make an announcement when vaccine becomes available to these groups.
LDH is following prioritization guidance from ACIP, which recently came out with refined guidance about Phases 1B and 2. LDH continues to review and consider how best to apply this guidance to Louisiana. This is a fluid process, and allocation may evolve depending on the amount of vaccine that is ultimately available to Louisiana. LDH is committed to the equitable distribution and administration of vaccines.
The vaccine is likely to become more widely available for the general population in late spring/summer 2021. When this happens, having a large portion of the population vaccinated is our best shot at a return to some form of normalcy. Based on conversations with our federal partners, we are encouraged that Louisiana will receive enough doses to vaccinate everyone who wants a shot.
LDH has been working closely with the private and public sector, including pharmacies, hospitals and nursing homes, in making the vaccine available at locations in both urban and rural communities throughout the state. HHS has also partnered with national pharmacy chains, and expects to partner with independent pharmacies and regional chains to ensure access.
Louisiana has also been preparing for COVID vaccination clinics throughout flu season. We have held drive-thru flu shot clinics across the state as a “test run” for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Information about vaccine distribution and administration can change quickly. LDH is committed to transparency about the vaccine, including safety concerns, and will continuously educate the public and address questions the public may have.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are in two doses, administered 3 or 4 weeks apart. You will get the necessary information about the second dose when you get your initial vaccine. The second dose is very important. One dose will not provide long-term protection. People vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine will receive the second dose 21 days after the first dose. Those getting the Moderna vaccine will receive the second dose 28 days after the first dose.
While we remain in the pandemic, the federal government plans to ensure vaccines are made available to those in need without cost to the individual.
Unlike many vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a dead or a weakened virus that triggers an immune response. Instead, the COVID-19 vaccine contains a genetic instruction manual that tells your immune system how to respond and protect you from exposure to the actual virus.
The technology used in the vaccines is not new. It is called mRNA, or messenger RNA, and it has been around for decades. This is the first time mRNA has been used in a vaccine, but the effect is the same as other vaccines: Your body gets protection without the serious consequences of a severe illness due to COVID-19 exposure.
Vaccines are approved for use by the FDA. The FDA authorization means that trials have proven the vaccine as a safe and effective defense against COVID-19. The FDA and ACIP will continue to monitor safety and effectiveness data.
No steps were skipped during the clinical trials and data review process for COVID-19 vaccines. Safety is a top priority. The COVID vaccines are being held to the same standards as other vaccines to make sure they are safe.