NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana administered its first coronavirus vaccines Monday to health care workers at a New Orleans-area hospital as Gov. John Bel Edwards looked on.
A livestream video from Ochsner Health’s Jefferson Parish medical center showed the Pfizer shots being administered to workers who regularly encounter COVID-19 patients.
“This is huge,” said Dr. Katherine Baumgarten. “It really is a big moment in time. We’ve been waiting a long time for the vaccine to be here. We’ve seen a lot of people that have been sick. People that have died. People that have been in our hospital. Our colleagues.”
Dr. Leonardo Seoane, chief academic officer for Ochsner Health, was one of the first employees to get vaccinated. Acknowledging concerns in some minority communities about the vaccine, the Cuban American doctor called it “a privilege” to receive his shot and urged “all of my Hispanic brothers and sisters to do it. It’s OK.”
Mia Yepez, an African American nurse who works in a COVID-19 unit, also acknowledged the importance of representing the Black community in getting the vaccine. She also alluded to the toll the virus has taken on family connections, saying: “We want to reunite with our families as well.”
Louisiana’s first shipments of an estimated 39,000 Pfizer vaccines this week all will go directly to hospitals to administer. In addition to Ochsner’s New Orleans-area hospital, the Willis-Knighton Health System in Shreveport will be administering vaccines to its workers Monday.
Other hospitals around Louisiana expect to receive their first doses later in the week. Those receiving vaccines will need to get a second dose in 21 days.
Edwards traveled to Jefferson Parish to see the vaccines being administered in person.
“Today is the beginning of the end because I just saw some shots going into arms here,” the Democratic governor said in the livestreamed video.
Still, Edwards stressed that Louisiana residents must continue their precautions against the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus because widespread vaccinations for most people across the country remain months away.
Louisiana expects to have enough doses to immunize at least 159,000 hospital employees, EMS workers and people who live and work at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in December. That’s a significant portion of the 208,000 people in Louisiana eligible to be first in line for shots.
In addition to this week’s shipments, Edwards has said Louisiana expects to receive 40,000 Pfizer vaccines next week. Louisiana expects to receive 80,000 doses of a second vaccine candidate from Moderna — which could get U.S. approval later this month — in the first week of shipments to states.
The Pfizer doses will go to hospital and EMS workers because of the ultra-cold storage required, under the state’s plans, while the Moderna vaccines will go to nursing homes, state-run veterans homes and other long-term care facilities.
Louisiana is in its third surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations since the state’s outbreak began in March. More than 6,500 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed by the state health department.
Deslatte contributed to this report from Baton Rouge.