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As 10,500 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trickled to pharmacies in Louisiana for the first time Monday, pharmacists reported being overwhelmed with inquiries from the elderly and others newly eligible for the immunization and the response briefly crashed the state’s website shortly after it unveiled the pharmacies participating.
In many places, far more patients were put on a waitlist than actually scheduled appointments to get vaccinated. While the governor made 640,000 new people eligible for vaccinations immediately, the 107 pharmacies getting vaccines this week will only receive about 100 doses each. The pharmacies set to receive vaccines this week were unveiled Monday morning.
“It’s probably been over 1,000 people calling,” said Alex Nguyen, a pharmacist at Westbank Pharmacy in Harvey. “We can’t pick up the phones in time.”
The flood of calls and inquiries from people aged 70 and older and a list of health workers who are also now eligible for vaccinations comes after a slow start to Louisiana’s vaccine effort. The state as of last week had only reported 45,289 doses administered. By comparison, the state received 79,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine alone in the first two weeks, not to mention thousands more of Moderna’s vaccine.
Until Monday, only certain hospital workers and people who live or work at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were eligible for vaccinations. But Gov. John Bel Edwards announced last week the next priority group, which includes people 70 and older, end stage renal disease facility personnel and patients, ambulatory and outpatient health care workers, home agency patients and workers and schools of allied health students, residents and staff. A small number of people with end-stage renal disease had already started receiving vaccinations before the announcement.
Officials warned the newly eligible group that there would be far more demand than supply at first.
“With this first very limited allotment of vaccine, we’re not going to be able to vaccinate everyone this week,” said Aly Neel, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health.
The pharmacies now included in the state’s mass vaccination effort span 51 parishes and include five in Baton Rouge, six in New Orleans and one in Lafayette. Forty-five chain stores, like Walgreens and Albertsons, along with 62 independent pharmacies and pharmacies tied to major health systems, such as Ochsner, are included. Continue Reading