Health department launches “Bring Back Louisiana” vaccination drive

Dr. David Obert receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada on December 16, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Louisiana Department of Health will be partnering with local community organizations and medical associations to “get everyone in Louisiana the opportunity to get the live-saving vaccine as soon as possible,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

The campaign is called “Bring Back Louisiana,” and “the charge of the campaign is to follow the data and work with local partners to meet people where they are, listen to their needs and work creatively to break down barriers so that every Louisianan has the opportunity to get the COVID vaccine,” Edwards said.

The goals of the “Bring Back Louisiana” campaign, according to the Louisiana Department of Health,  are to increase awareness and build confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine, provide safe spaces for asking questions and getting answers, amplify existing support, allocate vaccines to communities of concern and help eligible residents sign up for shots.

The health department is partnering with local community organizations and medical associations like AARP Louisiana, the NAACP of Louisiana, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, the Louisiana Hospital Association and the Louisiana Independent Pharmacy Association.

“These vaccines are our best chance at restoring a little normalcy, getting back our economy on track and bringing back the Louisiana that we know and love,” Edwards said. “Most importantly, they’re the key to minimizing transmission, hospitalizations and deaths of our fellow Louisianans.”

The state’s COVID-19 percent positivity rate was 2.9 percent — the lowest measured since March 2020 — Thursday, Joe Kanter, the chief state health officer, said.  The 414 people statewide hospitalized for COVID-19 was also the lowest measured since March 2020.

Louisiana nursing home residents also saw “an 82 percent uptick in residents of nursing homes” who were vaccinated, and “a 36-38 percent uptick in staff of nursing homes” who were vaccinated,” Kanter said.

Louisiana residents looking to volunteer for this campaign can sign up here.

Edwards also announced he’s expanding vaccine eligibility to several new groups starting Monday, March 22.

The expanded eligibility list adds: 

  • Higher education faculty/staff
  • Food and agricultural workers
  • Clergy
  • Media workers
  • Postal workers
  • Grocery store workers
  • Bank tellers
  • Construction workers
  • Veterinarians and support staff
  • Food service workers
  • Judiciary workers

Edwards said he believes this will be the last prioritization expansion until the vaccine becomes available to all adults. He said he believes Louisiana will open vaccine eligibility to all adults before May 1 — the target for countrywide vaccinations to the general public for President Joe Biden.

“Our strategy in Louisiana has been to vaccinate our most high risk populations first” to minimize deaths and hospitalizations, Edwards said about the state’s prioritization plan thus far.