Louisiana expands rollout of coronavirus vaccine to elderly

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana on Monday boosted distribution of coronavirus vaccines to the elderly, increasing the number of doses available to people aged 70 and older in the second week of eligibility and expanding the locations where they can get the shots to include every parish of the state.

The Department of Health’s list of pharmacies offering the vaccine to the elderly, which numbered 107 last week, grew to 209 pharmacies and health clinics across the 64 parishes this week.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’s administration also was steering thousands more doses to the facilities for vaccinations of people 70 and older and a broader cohort of health care workers than were eligible in the first weeks of immunizations.

Demand remained certain to exceed supply, with each facility estimated to receive about 100 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for distribution this week. That’s about double the doses released to the pharmacies last week. People still need to make an appointment to get a shot.

“Eligible residents must contact a participating provider and make an appointment with them. Patients who arrive without an appointment will not be vaccinated,” the health department stressed in a statement.

For the first three weeks that Louisiana received vaccine doses from the federal government, the state prioritized hospital employees, EMS workers, firefighters and people who live and work at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Edwards expanded the eligibility last week to include anyone 70 and older, people with kidney failure and additional health care workers.

Pharmacies saw their phone lines and websites overrun with interest after the Democratic governor’s decision to broaden the number of people eligible for shots.

Beyond the list of participating pharmacies and clinics released Monday, some hospital systems are reaching out to their elderly patients to offer them excess Pfizer vaccine doses they received for their workers, many of whom have not yet agreed to get vaccinated.

About 850,000 people in Louisiana are estimated to be currently eligible under the state vaccination guidelines. More than 74,500 of them had received at least their first dose of the two-dose regimen through Thursday, the most recent data available from the health department.

Louisiana was expected to have received more than 293,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines by the end of this week, according to Dr. Joe Kanter, the governor’s chief public health adviser. Edwards has pledged to improve the pace of vaccinations, saying he was not pleased with the speed of getting shots in arms across the first month of the vaccine rollout.


Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.