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The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in Louisiana

  • The first shots were reserved for long-term care residents and staff and health care workers who are actively treating patients, as well as for emergency medical services employees and firefighters. Louisiana opened vaccinations to the first tier of its next distribution group on Jan 4. This group includes people 70 and older; outpatient and home health care workers; staff and patients at end-stage-renal-care facilities; and residents, staff and students at medical schools.
  • Vaccine news is changing quickly. Check this guide for updates in days ahead.
Mass Covid Vaccination Gets A Dry Run An A Louisiana Parking Lot
Louisiana health care workers administer flu shots at a drive-thru clinic
in Shreveport. Eventually, the state plans to do the same for COVID-19
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When can older adults get the vaccine? 

Louisianans 70 and older can make an appointment at participating pharmacies. The Louisiana Department of Health has warned that “very limited doses” are available, with only 10,500 being distributed to approximately 100 pharmacies this week. Each pharmacy is receiving only about 100 doses, and many have already run through their allotment.

State health officials have posted a list of pharmacies that have received vaccines. Walk-ins are not accepted, so you’ll need to call or make an online appointment in advance.

Louisiana initially prioritized health care workers with direct exposure to patients; residents and staff of long-term care facilities; emergency medical services workers; and firefighters. Although the state hasn’t yet vaccinated everyone in this group of roughly 249,000 people, it is now distributing vaccines to the first tier of its Phase 1B vaccine group. This tier includes people 70 and older; outpatient, home, dental, behavioral and ambulatory health care workers; patients and staff at end-stage-renal-disease facilities; and students, residents and staff of medical schools.

Next in line will be the second tier of Phase 1B, including essential workers such as teachers; corrections officers; and grocery, public transit, postal, agriculture and day care workers. Louisiana is not yet vaccinating anyone in this group and hasn’t given a timeline for when vaccines will be available to members of it or who will receive vaccines after them. The state’s health department doesn’t expect vaccines to be available to the general public until late spring or early summer of 2021.

AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has shown that older people are at higher risk of death. 

Where can I get a vaccine?  

Initially, only at certain hospitals, long-term care facilities and 100 or so pharmacies across the state. The state plans to continue partnering with national pharmacy chains and independent pharmacies to distribute the vaccine and is preparing to launch mass-vaccination clinics. Louisiana’s health department says it’s been using drive-through flu shot clinics as a “test run” for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

How do I know when I’m able to get a vaccine?

The state is regularly updating a list of which residents are able to get a vaccine and where they can get one. The governor’s office and the state health department are also issuing statements as they update their distribution guidance.

AARP recommends that you talk to your doctor about the safety, effectiveness, benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

I’ve heard that some vaccines require a second shot.

The initial COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these vaccines, you’ll need a follow-up dose a few weeks later to be effectively immunized. “What you have is you get some degree, not optimal, but some degree of immunity a couple of weeks after the first dose,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in December. “That’s not optimal. After the second dose, you get optimal immunity anywhere from seven to 10 days after the second dose.”

You may receive a vaccination card or printout that tells you where, when and which type of vaccine you received, according to the CDC. Louisiana’s interim distribution plan says you’ll be reminded to come back for a second shot after you get your first. Reminders could come via text message, postcard or email.

The CDC has launched a web tool called v-safe that lets you sign up for text message reminders for your second vaccine appointment and report possible side effects.

How will nursing home and other long-term care residents get the vaccine? 

Vaccine rollout has already begun for long-term care residents in Louisiana. The federal government has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer the COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to long-term care residents and staff. The two national drugstore chains say that more than 48,000 of the 50,000 skilled nursing and assisted living communities in the U.S. are participating in the program.

Do I have to pay for the vaccination? 

AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. But the CDC says vaccine providers may still charge a fee for giving someone a shot. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said the vaccine will be administered free of charge to Medicare beneficiaries, with no copays. Some health insurance companies have also announced that there won’t be out-of-pocket costs for policyholders.

There are already reports of scammers purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.

How long does immunity last after I get vaccinated? 

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like the flu shot.

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated? 

Yes. Experts still need to learn more about the protection the vaccines provide under “real-life conditions,” the CDC says. It could take your body a few weeks to build up immunity after the second dose of a vaccine. And while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19, it’s not yet clear whether someone who’s been vaccinated can still catch the virus and transmit it to others.

The vaccine is just one tool that can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC says it could take months for the population to build up immunity and continues to recommend preventive measures such as face masks and social distancing. 

AARP has also called for ongoing monitoring of vaccines, once they are authorized for public use, to identify any risks that weren't evident in the expedited development and review process.

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This guide was published on Jan. 7 and updated on Jan. 12 with more information about federal vaccine recommendations.

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