Another 102 Louisiana pharmacies will receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week, making it available in 209 drug stores and in all 64 parishes, the Louisiana Department of Health announced Monday morning.
The vaccines are available to everyone who wants the vaccine in Tier 1 of Phase 1B . The group includes:
- people age 70 or older
- community care workers
- dental and behavioral health clinic providers and staff
- dialysis providers and staff
- home health care providers and staff and their recipients
- faculty, staff, students and residents of allied health schools
Last week the health department asked hospitals that received the Pfizer vaccine to begin vaccinating patients who fit into the Phase 1B, Tier 1 category. It reported that it was seeing demand for COVID-19 vaccines that far exceeded the supply.
In an interview with New Orleans Public Radio, State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said the mismatched supply and demand could have to do with the availability of vaccines the federal government purchased.
Kanter said the government has purchased a lot of vaccine, but there are challenges with knowing when and how much of it will be made available, in part because of the time it takes for the FDA to perform quality assurance protocols.
State governments are generally alerted a few days before their next allotment of vaccine is delivered, he said. “It doesn’t give pharmacies and clinics and hospitals a lot of time to prepare.”
Kanter emphasized the unprecedented speed with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, and acknowledged the difficulty in getting vaccines distributed throughout the state.
“Last week, we had about 10,000 doses [that] we were able to make available to pharmacies. That’s 100 pharmacies and 100 doses a piece. That’s a pittance,” Kanter said. “We push it out, but clearly [it’s] not enough. And I understand that makes people frustrated and phones are ringing off the hook. That’s probably a better problem than having no one want it.”
Kater said as the federal government’s supply increases, he’s certain that the state will be able to distribute the vaccine more effectively.