BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Federal officials have changed their guidance to states for distributing and administering the coronavirus vaccine, but that doesn’t mean Louisiana is rushing more of its residents to the front of the line for shot eligibility.
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration is keeping its current approach for now, because the state already has more interest in COVID-19 immunization than it has vaccine doses available — particularly from those aged 70 and older who are currently eligible in Louisiana.
In addition, it’s uncertain the new federal guidelines will stick. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration is expected to make changes to the nation’s approach to vaccinations, including adjustments to the distribution of doses to states.
For now, Louisiana’s Democratic governor will maintain the current eligibility requirements and distribution network he’s enacted through hospitals, pharmacies and health clinics.
“It’s going to be some time before we announce any changes, if at all, to our approach with respect to priority groups,” Edwards said. “One of the reasons is we’re already focused on those most vulnerable in Louisiana, those who are 70 or older, and we still have a lot of those individuals who have yet to be vaccinated who want the vaccine.”
In addition to the elderly, the vaccine in Louisiana is available to health care employees, EMS workers, firefighters, people with kidney failure and people who live and work at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
About 850,000 people out of Louisiana’s 4.6 million residents fall into the current eligibility categories, according to Edwards administration estimates. More than 170,000 people have received at least the first dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to the latest data from the state health department.
That means about 4% of Louisiana’s population has started the two-shot vaccination process.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s administration changed its guidance to states, widening its recommendations for eligibility after a sluggish start to getting shots in arms around the country. The new guidance urged states to immediately start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older and younger people with certain health problems…by Melinda Deslatte