Kylee Vidrine was a one-woman vaccination machine when COVID-19 shots were first being distributed. She turned her pharmacy into a de facto inoculation center with a power-point explainer on a loop and zydeco music to help ease the anxious.
She was personally giving around 300 shots per day then, though she hadn’t yet convinced someone important to her: her mother.
“They think it’s not real,” Vidrine, 35, dressed in hospital scrubs, said of her mother and others as she stood among the lime-green walls of her Boudreaux’s New Drug Store on busy East Prien Lake Road in Lake Charles. “They get all their information from Facebook, and it’s people that don’t know what they’re talking about.”
It is not an uncommon predicament in the Lake Charles area despite persistent efforts from health authorities to persuade the public that the vaccines are safe, effective and the only true way to end the pandemic. A new analysis by The Advocate and The Times-Picayune of COVID-19 data since vaccines became widespread underscores how lethal the virus remains.
Data from the Louisiana Department of Health shows that the annualized death rate from the virus in Lake Charles and surrounding Calcasieu Parish over the last three months has come down by just a third compared with the pandemic’s first year. That is far below the state average decrease of 74%. And places like Orleans Parish have seen death rates fall nearly 90%.
Explaining why Calcasieu has not had the decrease in mortality seen in much of the rest of the state is complicated. It likely involves factors common to other parts of Louisiana such as low vaccination rates and limited adherence to measures such as mask-wearing, as well as complications related to the recent string of disasters in the hurricane-battered region.