Vaccine not available to general public until after Mardi Gras, Louisiana health official estimates

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FILE – In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that’s surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) – The City of New Orleans’ announcement that carnival parades would not roll in 2021 came days after good news broke about COVID-19 vaccines.

Two companies, Phizer and Moderna, have had successful trials. But a Louisiana Department of Health official estimates a vaccine won’t be available to the general public in the state until the spring. Mardi Gras is Feb. 16.

Health department spokesman Kevin Litten tells WDSU the state could receive its first shipment of vaccine doses as early as December. However, front-line health care workers, nursing home residents and other vulnerable groups will receive priority. The state is currently working with stakeholders to identify the priority groups.

Whichever vaccine becomes available first will likely require two doses, Litten noted. He added there’s still many unknowns, including how many doses Louisiana will receive and when the state will receive them.

Even after the vaccine is distributed, Litten said, the public will still be asked to follow COVID-19 protocols, like wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings, for some time. The state will need to gather data and assess the effectiveness of the vaccine distribution.

For now, Litten said, the health department is eager to remind Louisianians to adjust their Thanksgiving plans if needed. Travel and gatherings with people outside one’s household are all risks that families should assess for themselves, he said.

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