Louisiana nearly doubled the number of pharmacies and other providers administering vaccines to elderly patients across the state, as officials race to catch up with skyrocketing demand from patients over 70.
After delivering shipments of 100 vaccine doses each to 107 pharmacies last week, the Louisiana Department of Health said Monday it would send more doses to those pharmacies and 102 more this week. In all, 209 providers in all 64 parishes will get doses, the agency said, most of them pharmacies. They include 87 chain pharmacies, 93 independent pharmacies, 20 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and 9 health care sites.
Pharmacies only received 10,500 doses in all last week. This week, doses will be available from several sources. Some will be directly shipped from Moderna, some are coming from a surplus at the state’s distributor and some clinics are making their extra doses available to the public. It was not immediately clear Monday morning how many doses would be available at the locations.
See a list of the providers offering vaccines to the elderly and health workers. Several hospitals that have also started offering vaccines to people in the Phase 1B priority group are not included in this list.
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The Health Department has told patients not to arrive at locations without an appointment expecting to be vaccinated, advising them to instead call or make an appointment on the website.
The agency also said in a new release that “participating providers must make available vaccine available to anyone who is eligible. Failure to do so will inform future decisions about distribution.”
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After seeing vaccinations lag at hospitals in the first weeks of the state’s effort, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on New Year’s Eve he was expanding the immunizations to the next phase beyond nursing homes and hospital workers. That gave people older than 70 and a list of other health care workers the opportunity to get vaccinated.
The current Phase 1B priority group for the vaccine offers immunizations to people 70 and older, as well as end stage renal disease facility personnel and patients, ambulatory and outpatient health care workers, home agency patients and workers and schools of allied health students, residents and staff.
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While many hospital workers have hesitated to get the vaccine immediately, demand from elderly patients immediately overwhelmed pharmacies, who put thousands of names on waitlists last week.
At the same time, hospitals began shifting their focus–and their thousands of unused doses–to elderly patients. Ochsner Health System said Friday it had scheduled 82,922 COVID-19 vaccine appointments through the next five weeks, including elderly patients and health workers. Those include their second doses. Ochsner as of last week had used 30,324 of its 61,575 doses, but said it was ramping up immunizations.
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Aly Neel, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health, said just because the 107 pharmacies that received doses last week are getting resupplied this week, it doesn’t guarantee they will continue to get doses moving forward.
“The biggest limiting factor is the amount of vaccine available to us,” she said.
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