Mass COVID-19 vaccine distribution ‘could take some time’ as hospitalizations surge

By: - December 11, 2020 6:10 am

Gov. John Bel Edwards (Photo by JC Canicosa)

The Pfizer vaccine may be coming to Louisiana as soon as this weekend, but mass distribution is still several months away, Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

“Everybody needs to have that clear expectation from the outset,” Edwards said. “It’s really important that we start administering the vaccine, but it’s going to take awhile.”

The first wave of vaccines will go to Louisiana’s frontline workers and nursing home residents and staff — around 210,000 people, “which could take some time,” Edwards said.

The Moderna vaccine — which could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as early as next week — doesn’t have ultra cold storage requirements, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved by a panel of scientists and doctors for recommendation to the FDA Thursday afternoon. So while the Pfizer vaccine will be administered this weekend or early next week to frontline workers, the Moderna vaccine will be administered to nursing home residents after approval.

Edwards said that while the end of the pandemic is in sight, hospitalizations “are at a trajectory we cannot sustain for much longer if we want to preserve that capacity to deliver lifesaving care.” There are 1,529 patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of Dec. 10, “and I already know tomorrow we’re going to report a significant increase.”

Edwards said the state must get on top of the increasing hospitalizations before it’s too late. Once hospital bed capacities are full “it takes weeks to steer this ship” in a different trajectory.

While he is not considering increasing statewide restrictions, Edwards said that “everything is on the table because I never want (doctors) to lose capacity in hospitals.”

Right now, Louisiana’s hospitalization numbers are similar to what they were during the state’s summer surge. Edwards said that because “we were able to slow the spread and flatten the curve” in July and August, Louisiana can do it again.

“I only have to impose more restrictions if people don’t do what they do then, and that is wear masks, (social) distance, wash your hands, stay home when you’re sick,” Edwards said.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is a former Louisiana Illuminator reporter. Prior to working with the Illuminator, Canicosa worked for Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon. Canicosa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.