COVID-19 Vaccine Effort Slow at Louisiana’s Nursing Homes

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s work to vaccinate nursing home residents and employees against COVID-19 is moving slowly with fewer than one-third of the doses set aside for the effort used and a slim percentage of workers at the facilities showing interest so far, according to data released Thursday.

Dr. Joe Kanter, the state’s chief public health adviser, said 93,600 Moderna vaccine doses have been allocated to a program administered by CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate people who live and work at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Only 28,000 of those doses have reached arms, according to the latest numbers Louisiana has received from the pharmacy chains.

Of the facilities that have been visited to offer first doses of the two-dose vaccine, about 69% of residents have wanted the immunization while only 26% of staff members have been interested, Kanter said.

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“No doubt I think all of us would prefer that the program was going faster,” Kanter said.

Those vaccination figures were released on the same day the state Department of Health said it has confirmed two more cases of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus that is more contagious. It’s the third case of the variant confirmed in Louisiana, with cases in both the Lake Charles and New Orleans regions.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said another 14 possible cases of the U.K. variant were pending confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Democratic governor said that faster-spreading variant could wipe out improvements Louisiana has seen in recent days of fewer new confirmed COVID-19 cases and a smaller percentage of tests returning positive.

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Kanter said residents should assume an “iceberg-type scenario where when you have one or two identified cases, that’s the tip of the iceberg and you know there is a mountain below that.”

Louisiana, like other states, is expecting to see a 16% increase in the number of coronavirus vaccine doses it will receive next week. That will boost the weekly delivery of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses combined to 67,350.

Still, demand outstrips supply.

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Nearly 900,000 of Louisiana’s 4.6 million residents are eligible to be immunized right now, under Edwards’ eligibility rules. More than 339,000 people in the state have received at least their first dose of the two-dose immunization so far, according to the latest health department data released Thursday.

Vaccination efforts at nursing homes seem to be moving slower than the state’s other immunization efforts through hospitals, clinics and local pharmacies.

Edwards said the lower interest in nursing home workers is particularly concerning, but he said he’s hopeful that will improve.

At the state-run veterans homes, the governor said the number of staff seeking the vaccine on the second visit from CVS and Walgreens doubled the employees who got the shot on the first visit — and he expects similar increased interest at other facilities.

“I do encourage everybody to have confidence in the vaccine, to get it when you’re able,” he said.

More than 8,200 deaths from COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state since March, according to data from the state health department.

Louisiana ranked 18th among states Thursday for the number of vaccine doses administered per capita, according to the CDC.

The state National Guard’s adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Keith Waddell, became the latest official to announce he has tested positive for the coronavirus illness, reporting mild COVID-19 symptoms and saying he is quarantining.


By AP reporter Melinda Deslatte

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