Louisiana’s bad weather delays vaccine shipments, appointments

The state’s biggest health care provider has postponed 500 appointments

Ochsner vaccine
Debbie Ford, Chief Nursing Officer at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson, was the first Ochsner Health employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at 9:07 a.m. on Monday, December 14, 2020. (Photo provided by Ochsner Health)

The Louisiana Department of Health says bad weather across the state delayed vaccine shipments to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other health care providers. The delays are expected to affect people’s ability to get both first and second doses of vaccines in the coming days.

“This is similar to delays in other areas outside of Louisiana that are experiencing winter weather,” said department spokesman Kevin Litten in an email Wednesday. 

Health officials aren’t aware of any vaccine that has spoiled or been wasted as a result of the weather, but anticipate there could be losses, Litten said. The Pfizer vaccine specifically has to be stored at an extremely cold temperature, -76 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Louisiana’s medical director Joe Kanter said people scheduled to receive their second dose of vaccine shouldn’t be concerned if they receive it a few days late. The second dose of Pfizer vaccine is supposed to be administered 21 days after the first dose. The Moderna vaccine is supposed to be administered 28 days later. 

“If your [delayed] appointment was for the second dose, it’s ok if you have to push it back a couple of days,” Kanter said Wednesday.

Ochsner Health — the largest healthcare provider in Louisiana — has had to postpone 500 vaccine appointments at its pharmacies this week because of delayed deliveries, according to a statement released Wednesday. Appointments for second-dose shots and those scheduled at hospitals and clinics — as opposed to pharmacies — will go ahead as scheduled.

Franciscan Missionaries Of Our Lady health system — which runs Our Lady of the Lake hospital in Baton Rouge — canceled vaccine appointments Monday and Tuesday because of the weather. It intends to add appointments and extend hours over the weekend to ensure that everyone who was scheduled to get vaccinated this week will still get their shot, said Grace Weber, a health system spokeswoman. 

About 528,000 vaccine series have been initiated in Louisiana. Around 255,000 have been completed. Louisiana ranks ninth among states and Washington D.C. when it comes to the percentage of the population that has received at least one vaccine dose (11 percent).