Cenla health officials concerned over vaccine rollout as new variants emerge

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 7:14 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - As Central Louisiana is seeing the rollout of vaccines, health officials are concerned about new variants of the virus popping up, and how that impacts you getting the shot.

It’s the newest hurdle in the race against COVID-19 - new variants of the virus are emerging across the world. Recently, a highly contagious variant originally found in the United Kingdom made its way to New Orleans.

“That case in New Orleans, it surely means there are others,” said Dr. David Holcombe, Regional Director with the Region 6 Office of Public Health. “That particular person had exposure overseas.”

The Office of Public Health is keeping an eye on the new strains. New variants are also showing up in Brazil and South Africa. On Tuesday, another new variant was found in Germany. In the U.S., a new variant is being found all across California.

“It’s a problem. It really is a race against time to get people vaccinated,” said Dr. Holcombe.

Health officials said it’s not unusual for a virus to mutate. So, vaccination is key to stopping a surge of new variants.

“There may be some strains that develop that the vaccine may not be sensitive to. Which is why it’s more important to get people vaccinated as soon as possible to give the virus less opportunity to change,” said Dr. Jose Zapatero, Chief Medical Officer and VP of Medical Affairs at Cabrini.

However, getting vaccinated has been tricky at times. Last week, Central Louisiana’s Office of Public Health requested 3,000 vaccines, but was denied by the state. Dr. Holcombe said they will be making another request on Tuesday so they can get shots in arms starting next week. However, they won’t have an answer from the state until the weekend. Also, officials at Cabrini said they usually don’t know they are getting vaccines until the day before.

“So there’s a lot of energy that is being spent on this,” said Dr. Zapatero. “We have asked for more transparency of when we are receiving doses and we usually don’t find out until the day before that we are going to receive an allotment. So it makes it really difficult.”

This is all happening with change coming in Washington D.C. as the Biden administration is set to take over on Wednesday, Jan. 20 with their own plans.

“I think we will have to see what these changes are and how much consistency that there is once they start implementing new changes,” said Dr. Zapatero.

The new variants are causing concern for the Biden Administration. A coronavirus adviser to the President-elect said things could get worse.

“Right now we have a base of over 225,000 to 250,000 cases per day. And these variants could make the numbers of 250,000 seem as if we wish we were back at that number again,” said Michael Osterholm, coronavirus adviser to the President-elect on CNN on Tuesday. “I worry desperately in the next six to 12 weeks we could see a situation with this pandemic unlike anything we have seen yet to date.”

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