BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana is telling its coronavirus vaccine providers that they must get shots in arms within a week of receiving the doses or risk getting blocked from receiving future shipments of the vaccine.
The state health department sent a notice Thursday to hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and other community providers of the coronavirus vaccine detailing the state’s expectations. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office provided a copy of the notification Friday to The Associated Press.
“It is imperative vaccine be administered promptly and without delay,” Stacy Hall, the state’s immunization program director, wrote to the facilities.
Nearly 18% of the state’s total population has received at least the first dose of vaccine regimens that often require two doses, according to state health department data. More than 470,000 people have been fully immunized.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.
Louisiana lags many other states in distributing its doses. It ranked 38th among states Friday in the number of vaccine doses administered per capita, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We want to get a shot in as many people’s arms as possible,” said Edwards spokesperson Christina Stephens.
The Democratic governor widened vaccine eligibility earlier this week to much of Louisiana’s adult population, offering shots to anyone 16 and older who has among two dozen high-risk medical conditions, including high-blood pressure, diabetes and asthma. People who are overweight or who are smokers also are on the list.
Hall told providers that all first doses of vaccine need to be used within a week of arrival. If a provider isn’t using the vaccine in that time or is not correctly logging its usage in the state’s immunization tracking system, it won’t receive future doses.
“It is the unambiguous expectation of the immunization program that all allocated/delivered doses be used within a 7-day time frame, and that vaccine providers be cognizant of this expectation when placing their weekly vaccine requests,” Hall wrote.
She said if a vaccine provider has had doses sitting unused for more than five days and doesn’t expect to use them by the week benchmark, the clinic, pharmacy or hospital should reach out to the health department to get the doses moved elsewhere so they can be distributed.
The state has been holding large community vaccination events at convention and civic centers, sports stadiums, fairgrounds and other sites to more quickly immunize people and reach into areas that might have less access. More of those events are planned, Stephens said.
As more people continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Louisiana is seeing encouraging declines in new coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations. The state had 478 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Friday, according to the state health department. That was the first time that number has fallen below 500 since the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.
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