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Louisiana COVID-19 vaccine supply outpacing demand

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are shown, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.
Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are shown, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.(Wilfredo Lee | AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 3:46 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As supply outpaces demand, Louisiana has passed on some federal shipments of COVID-19 vaccines with only a quarter of the state fully vaccinated.

The main focus now becomes targeted outreach for both state and local partners as Louisiana falls behind in vaccination rates the state once led in.

Health officials, including State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter, say among unvaccinated people in Louisiana it’s not so much they never want to get the vaccine, they say it’s usually uncertainty. That’s why Kanter says the approach will become a lot more deliberate.

“Smaller vaccine events, reaching deeper into communities and neighborhoods, letting people have conversations. That’s what it’s going to take,” Kanter said.

It’s not only about making it easier to get vaccinated, but making sure they are answering questions and squashing doubt.

“Those that wanted the vaccine immediately got it, and now, we just have to really make people feel comfortable with vaccination,” Dr. Jeffrey Elder with LCMC said.

Louisiana stopped asking for its full allotment of vaccine from the federal government last week as unused doses build up.

“Luckily, a lot of these vaccines have a long shelf life, they remain frozen, or they remain refrigerated and so we’re going to continue to use the vaccine,” Elder said.

Elder says the health system is even looking into giving out doses to discharged patients.

On top of the growing stock, more than nine million doses of J&J are ready nationwide after the CDC and FDA paused distribution to take a closer look at rare cases of blood clots.

“I think they did a really good job of looking at the data and saying, ‘look, we know what happens, but the risk is still extremely low,’” Elder said. “Now, when I say extremely low, we’re talking like getting struck by lightning low.”

Only 25 percent of the state is fully vaccinated and it’s primarily people over 60.

“The age groups that are lower than 60, we have very low vaccination rates still and what’s going to happen if we do not improve demand for vaccination, the virus is just going to keep circulating and trying to find ways around our immunity,” Dr. Lucio Miele, LSU Health Chair of Genetics, said.

Miele says we need to pick up the pace so there’s not a big gap between people getting vaccinated because we don’t know how long the protection lasts quite yet. However, one thing’s for sure, it’s not forever.

“If I’m vaccinated, say, in January, and we wait until next January, I may be losing my immunity by the time that the last people get vaccinated, so we keep running around the tree,” Miele said.

From hotlines to social media Q&As, walk-up mass vaccination sites to distribution at festivals and bars, state and local partners have been organizing with boots on the ground, even going door to door, bringing the information directly to those who need it.

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