When the coronavirus hit Louisiana in March, Debbie Dore, a 70-year-old Crowley resident, crouched. She and her husband, who has heart disease, ate meals from the freezer and held onto water when the milk ran out.
When Dore learned from her doctor in December that the vaccine was available, she gave her their names. She thought they would be added to a list and notified to come in for their recordings.
Louisiana city and state governments are planning the next stages of distributing coronavirus vaccines to a wider population, a postponement …
She didn’t hear anything. Since people age 70 and older became eligible for vaccinations this month, Dore has visited the three pharmacies and the only nearby hospital with no luck. The best a pharmacist could do was write her name on a note next to the cash register.
On Saturday, the Dores traveled back and forth more than 300 miles to schedule an appointment with CrescentCare in New Orleans. Her husband gave up a big day to watch football on TV in the afternoon – no problem.
“Get the time you can get and I’ll set the recorder and when we get home we won’t have any commercials,” Dore’s husband told her. “It’s not a big deal for us to go there,” she said. “Right now I would go to Texas. I would go anywhere.”
Despite the demand, there are still thousands of cans in ultra-cold warehouses, hospital refrigerators
Louisiana has vaccinated more than 170,000 people a month since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations were approved by the Food and Drug Administration and arrived in the state. However, currently nearly 900,000 people are qualified for a vaccination.
Since the state government expanded eligibility to Louisians over the age of 70 and all healthcare workers, demand has exceeded supply, leaving those who qualify to find vaccines in other communities – even in other states . For those who haven’t qualified, it’s a reminder that there’s a long wait to come – and some are looking for loopholes.
Scott Wood, 44, found that a friend of a doctor’s in Indiana could put her husband on a waiting list for “leftovers” vaccinations. Sometimes people don’t show up for their appointments, leaving extra doses of the already thawed vaccine that need to be used quickly. Wood is considering going there to wait for a dose.
Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina are falling behind in coronavirus vaccination efforts, while Louisiana has accelerated its efforts.
“I don’t want to photograph anyone who should get it first, whether it’s a first responder, an elderly person, or someone disproportionately affected than me,” said Wood, who owns and is New Orleans Courtyard Brewery Hospitality Cares The workers will be towards the end of the vaccination line. “At the same time, I don’t want a shot to be wasted. If there is an opportunity to get one, I’ll take it. “
A Louisiana Department of Health official said the state doesn’t track how many doses go to people from other locations, but said there are no residency requirements.
Although vaccines have traditionally been distributed nationally on the basis of a state’s population, federal regulations prohibit states from restricting distribution to their own residents.
The Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest, said it would delay vaccine appointments for thousands of patients after not receiving new doses.
In Mississippi, where some of the looser guidelines in the US are currently in place after vaccinating all adults with a range of conditions, 2,025 of the 87,461 people vaccinated are from outside the state. Of these, 241 were from Louisiana, according to Mississippi state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. In Florida, 31,517 people from other states received at least one dose of vaccine, nearly 4% of the nearly 850,000 doses given.
A 66-year-old home nurse in the New Orleans area said she would drive 3½ hours and cross three state lines to get a vaccine Monday from a Florida hospital that was offering shots to qualified family members of staff.
“I was told there was a couple all the way from Minnesota, which makes 3½ hours short,” said Linda, who asked not to use her last name, which was released due to concerns about her employment. She has not yet been offered a shot in Louisiana, despite qualifying as a licensed practical nurse.
72-year-old Katherine Hoover didn’t have to walk that far for her Saturday appointment, just from LaPlace to New Orleans, which could take an hour at a time.
“It’s so worth the travel,” said Hoover, who has enough lung problems in the past to need a ventilator. “It’s like my great excitement for the day to get a COVID shot. I think I could wear something other than jeans. I could wear makeup. “
But Hoover, a former disability specialist who worked in the nonprofit sector, knows she is fortunate enough to have resources: the ability to drive a car, her own transportation, and her flair for the internet.
“The real problem will be in rural communities,” said Hoover. “One of my neighbors doesn’t use the internet. She’s not interested in walking around town. “
Aside from the logistical problems created by crossing jurisdictions for states trying to track progress toward herd immunity, gaps are often the result of who you know, even if it’s a tip someone in the Internet or a Facebook friend who posted an experience.
“Knowing you is never more relevant than dealing with scarce medical resources,” said Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at Tulane University, who was discussing Louisiana’s prioritization plan. “I would refer you to abortion services. When restrictions in one environment become particularly stressful, individuals with resources move to another state or jurisdiction. People without these resources get stuck. “
So far, 267 doses have been dispensed in Louisiana. Hassig says there is no equity issue with a standby list for cans that might otherwise be wasted, but everyone should have access to and know about it.
“This virus has had a very uneven impact on our populations here in the state, in the city and across the country,” she said. “I am concerned that the vaccine is headed in that direction too.”
In Nashville, Tennessee, the public can email the health department daily to enter a standby lottery. Louisiana does not have a similar formal structure, although many pharmacies have waiting lists of hundreds of people who fall within the current guidelines.
At Carr Drugs in Algiers, pharmacist Randy Carr had three extra doses of no-show on Thursday. He went through his waiting list and gave it to health workers and a man in his eighties.
Other health clinics, like the David Raines Community Health Center in Shreveport, are listing additional doses for all ages, according to a Facebook post. The clinic did not return any messages about the standby process.
28-year-old medical student Brad Johnson from Tulane was so frustrated with the waste of doses and the generally slow pace of vaccination in the United States that he started a Facebook group, NOLA Vaccine Hunters. The group would like to share information about where to get vaccines. Ultimately, though, Johnson wants to work with the state to create a formal vaccine waste reduction list.
Johnson will receive the vaccine along with other medical students and staff in the coming weeks. But he knows people who are desperate for the vaccine and go to extreme lengths to get it.
“Without that guidance or infrastructure, I’m sure there will be more sites getting vaccines and there will simply be a lot more wasted doses,” said Johnson. “As there is no formal standby list, I am trying to repeat what I have seen in other parts of the world.”
Even people who qualify under Louisiana’s guidelines share Johnson’s frustration. Dore, the Crowley resident, knows people who were shot because of medical connections, even if they didn’t qualify.
“We thought we’d be contacted, but that never happened,” said Dore. “I took it into my own hands. If you get a place here, you can give it to someone else. “