Video courtesy of Ochsner Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – Louisiana healthcare workers began receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, making them the first to complete the two-shot requirement needed to prevent contraction of the novel coronavirus.
The Pfizer vaccine, the first to be administered in Louisiana, requires a second dose 21 days after the first.
The state is nearing a month into its vaccination plan, which is expected to last well into the summer. The Louisiana Department of Health is coordinating the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort, which health experts say is the only way to put the COVID-19 pandemic “in the rearview mirror.”
Frontline healthcare workers were among the first to be vaccinated as part of Priority Group 1A, with the initial batch of vaccines being administered Dec. 14, 2020, hours after the first shipments arrived.
Priority Group 1A also includes the staff and residents of long-term care facilities, emergency medical services employees, and firefighters, which are all receiving the Moderna vaccine.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine does not need to be stored in ultra-cold temperatures and its second dose 28 days after the first.
This week, the Department of Health released a list of more than 100 pharmacies that can begin administering the Moderna vaccine for Priority Group 1B Tier 1, which consists of people 70 and older as well as some additional healthcare workers.
These 107 pharmacies — 45 chain pharmacies and 62 independent pharmacies — represent 51 parishes and all nine public health regions of the state. The pharmacies are receiving roughly 100 doses in the first batch.
As of Tuesday, at least 56,452 people in the state have received the vaccine, according to the Louisiana Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard does not yet include data regarding those who have received their second dose. The Department of Health updates information regarding vaccines twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday).
Dr. Joseph Kanter, the interim assistant secretary of the Office of Public Health, was among the first to receive the second dose this week. He got his alongside Dr. Jennifer Avegno, head of the New Orleans Health Department.
In a tweet following the procedure, Kanter encouraged others to be vaccinated when their turn is up, a plea he has made repeatedly during press conferences over the last several weeks.
“When it’s your time, don’t miss your opportunity to get vaccinated,” Kanter tweeted.
Ochsner Baton Rouge began administering its second round of doses on Tuesday, with Dr. Brandon Weeks being the first to receive a second dose at 2:10 p.m.
A family medicine physician by trade, Weeks has spent the last month treating patients — including some who are COVID-19 positive — at Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge after an influx of patients arrived during the state’s third COVID-19 surge.
In a video produced by Ochsner Health, Weeks said life has been “normal” since receiving his first dose. He admitted to having “a little bit” of arm soreness for two days but then “forgot about it.”
Weeks said he was “honored” to be among the first to receive the vaccine and hoped to “set an example for people and my patients and family members and anyone in the community.”
“[I’m] just excited to be finished,” Weeks said. “A week from now, I’ll have the benefit of the full immunity of the vaccine.”
On Tuesday, the Department of Health announced it had given guidance to hospitals “that any remaining current or future vaccine allotments that exceed hospital uptake can be used for any currently eligible groups.”
As more vaccines become available from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more individuals and groups will be offered a vaccination.
“We are so encouraged by our residents’ clear demand for the COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, secretary of the Department of Health, in a statement. “While demand is clearly outpacing supply, this is just the start.”
The announcement came on the same day the state reached its most COVID-19 hospitalizations — 1,974 — since April 14, the state’s first surge. In just over a week, hospitalizations have risen by 444.
New daily cases also continue to rise in large numbers — the state has reported more than 10,300 since New Year’s Day — as well as deaths.
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