School and daycare staff are among 1.65 million Louisianans eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday afternoon.
“As we signaled a few weeks ago, we intended for teachers and other school workers to be in the next order of priority,” Edwards said. “Being able to get to them is really important for our state. As we all know, they have been on the frontlines of this pandemic and they play a critical role in our continued recovery and obviously in the education of our children.”
Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley praised Edward’s decision to include the state’s 167,000 school and childcare workers in its next stage of vaccine distribution.
“It will not only recognize their status as essential workers, but will also help us keep our schools and centers open,” Brumley said.
Based on anecdotal evidence and conversations with school system leaders, Brumley said he expects at least half of school and childcare employees to get vaccinated.
“We know that everyone begins their period of eligibility on Monday, that doesn’t mean that we have enough vaccines across the state to vaccinate everyone who is eligible,” Brumley said. “As more supply becomes available, we will be ready to give our employees access to that.”
For months, school leaders, teachers unions and state lawmakers have been calling on Edwards to allow teachers and support staff to qualify for vaccination.
Instead, he directed the state’s limited supply doses to health care workers, the elderly and those most likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.
But now that the Biden Administration has increased Louisiana's weekly allocation of doses and given public health officials a clearer picture of how many they can expect in the future, Edwards said it was time to include teachers in the state’s vaccination program.
The state’s next stage of distribution also includes individuals who are pregnant and people between the ages of 55 and 64 who have certain CDC-identified health conditions that put them at greater risk from the coronavirus, including cancer, Type 2 diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and obesity.
When this expansion takes effect on Monday, more than a third of the state’s population will be eligible for vaccination.
“Well we’re going to have more doses than we’ve ever had before, and from that perspective it is the exact right time to add in individuals to the next priority group,” Edwards said.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state health officer and coordinator of Louisiana's coronavirus response, said the state will receive an allocation of 45,630 doses from Pfizer and 45,000 from Moderna in the coming week. The federal government will also ship an estimated 28,000 doses to Walmart and CVS through the federal retail pharmacy program for COVID-19 vaccination.
The state’s vaccine providers have the challenge of processing and administering the new doses while rescheduling vaccination appointments that were canceled because of last week’s winter weather. Many of the weather-delayed vaccine shipments will not arrive in Louisiana until this weekend.
Kanter said he was confident that vaccine providers could work through the backlog in “a week or two.”
“There is no question that even today, we have much more capacity to deliver vaccine in Louisiana than we have supply,” Kanter said. “I think that our vaccine providers are going to do a good job next week with the added volume and essentially make up for the lost time.”
Kanter urged anyone who missed their appointment to receive their second dose because of the weather to call their vaccine provider to reschedule.
“It is still beneficial to take that second dose even if it is days or a week or two later than it should have been,” Kanter said.