BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – All Louisianans 16 years old or older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, March 29, following news from the federal government that Louisiana’s allocation of vaccine doses will significantly increase next week, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday.
“Since the beginning of the vaccine process, our weekly allocations from the federal government have more than doubled and that is why we have the confidence that we’re ready for this next step,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a media briefing Wednesday afternoon.
The state expects to receive another 148,000 first doses to distribute next week, including a substantial increase in the amount of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses. That is in addition to vaccine doses provided to partner pharmacies in a federal pharmacy program as well as the Federally Qualified Health Care Center program.
On top of that, another 34,000 doses will be taken back from nursing homes around the state for redistribution.
“The vaccination effort really is expanding in a robust fashion,” Edwards said. “So come Monday, nobody needs to ask whether they’re eligible, they just need to know their age. It doesn’t matter about health condition, doesn’t matter about occupation, 16 years and older will be the determining factor for eligibility. This is welcome news. It’s a little bit of a surprise to get here as soon as we did.”
Currently, all people in Louisiana who are 65 and older, all health care workers, people ages 16 to 64 with certain health conditions and people 16 or older in certain essential jobs are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Louisiana. Starting Monday, March 29, all of the eligibility guidelines will be dropped in Louisiana and anyone who is 16 or older will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The expansion comes a week after the governor opened eligibility to all essential workers, including people working in foodservice and grocery stores, manufacturing, construction, clergy and other essential jobs.
Appointments will still be required and providers may need time to update their scheduling systems, which means that people may have to wait a few days to schedule their appointments for next week. There are three authorized COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States: two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna and a one-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson. People ages 16 and 17 are only eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and they should consult their primary care doctor or vaccine provider to ensure the proper vaccine is administered.
Go to covidvaccine.la.gov for a list of enrolled providers and vaccine locations in each parish. Residents can also call 211 to find a vaccine provider or event near them.
At the same time, both Edwards and State Health Officer Joseph Kanter warned that the spread of the B.1.1.7., also known as the U.K. variant of the virus in the state, particularly in the Lake Charles region, makes the need to get more people across the state vaccinated as quickly as possible before it becomes more widespread.
As of Wednesday, Kanter said there were 164 confirmed and presumed cases of the B117 strain of the coronavirus in the state, 96 of them in Region 5 (Lake Charles).
More than one million Louisianans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Kanter said 25 percent of the state’s population has at least initiated a vaccine series and another 13.8 percent has completed the series.
“Based on the doses that we will have available in the coming week, now is absolutely the time to expand vaccine eligibility as broadly as we possibly can, which is to everyone age 16 or older in Louisiana. This is an exciting development, but the hard work of making sure our family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors all have access to the vaccine will continue for months,” Gov. Edwards said.
“Our goal has been to get vaccine doses we receive into someone’s arm within seven days of the doses arriving, because a shot sitting on a shelf doesn’t help us end this pandemic. All three available vaccines are safe and effective for every community and they represent our best hope of being able to Bring Louisiana Back.”
Last week, the Louisiana Department of Health launched the Bring Back Louisiana grassroots campaign, which will bring COVID-19 vaccines to communities of concern through community events and targeted outreach. To sign up to volunteer for this effort, click here.