Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards pledges to improve pace of COVID-19 vaccinations
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday the state will improve the pace of administering COVID-19 vaccinations as the infection continues to surge with bloated waiting lists for those seeking the shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data Monday listing Louisiana as among the bottom five states in administering the vaccines it has available.
"I want it to be going faster than it is," Edwards said. "It's a tremendously complex logistical exercise ... that will improve over time.
"When you first start something like this it isn't going to go as smooth as you want it to be."
The CDC reported Monday Louisiana has administered about 23% of its doses, while the national average is 30%.
So far, about 15.4 million doses have shipped throughout the country with Louisiana securing about 273,000, Louisiana Department of Health Dr. Joe Kanter said Wednesday.
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But only about 4.5 million Americans had received their first dose as of Tuesday, the CDC reported.
Louisianans 70 and older were made eligible for about 10,500 doses at 107 pharmacies throughout the state this week. People must make appointments before going to the pharmacies, and many were on waiting lists that stretched into the 100s of names.
Kanter said the number of pharmacies and clinics that will get next week's allotment will expand, although he said some of the original 107 pharmacies might not receive another shipment.
Edwards said the list will be posted on the Louisiana Department of Health's website "by Monday at the latest."
The website's address is: ldh.la.gov
Next week's allotment for those 70 and older could be between 18,000 and 25,000. There are almost 500,000 Louisianans who are 70 and older.
Edwards said he has ordered next week's vaccines to be delivered to all 64 parishes.
"We'll make an announcement no later than Monday so people will know where the vaccine is going to be and where they can get appointment," Edwards said.
In the meantime the state Wednesday reached an all-time high 1,973 COVID-19 hospitalizations.
"This is the most dangerous time of the pandemic for us and we haven't peaked yet," Kanter said.
Edwards said though there remains room in hospitals now, that capacity will be threatened if the surge of the infection can't be stalled through mitigation measures like masking and social distancing.
"Quite frankly (the mitigation measures) are not that damn onerous," he said. "Put a mask on.
"I hope, I pray, I appeal to the people of Louisiana to take stock of where we are and do what is necessary ... engage in mitigation measures religiously," he said.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.