COVID vaccines

A customer walks into a Walgreens store at 2000 Gertsner Memorial Drive in Lake Charles on Monday, one of about 100 pharmacies in the state slated to begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine. A sign on the door, however, announces the vaccine is not yet available at this location.

As a new year is upon Southwest Louisiana, many residents are ready to put 2020 behind them by receiving their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, Louisiana Office of Public Health regional medical director for region five, said with more and more priority groups opening, the response from community members has been eager.  

 “I think it’s exciting that there are so many people who want the vaccines. I hope that, you know, eventually we get to the place where we have large numbers of people vaccinated because that would definitely help us get COVID-19 under control.”

 Currently, the vaccine is available for a wide range of hospital and medical workers including hospitals, long-term care facilities, dialysis centers and now anyone who is over 70 years old. “Even though we have said, ‘The vaccine is coming and this current group is a priority,’ the challenge is that the vaccine is not widely available yet…There is just not enough vaccine that has come to the state and it’s going to take time,” Cavanaugh said.

 It is estimated that it will still be several weeks until the number of priority groups recommended for the vaccine matches the state’s supply, she said.  

 Five pharmacies in Calcasieu Parish and one pharmacy in Jeff Davis, Allen and Beauregard Parish have begun to receive their limited supply. “But they only received 100 doses each because that’s all we have. So, it’s a start but we well know that all of the probably close to 20,000 or more citizens who now qualify are not going to get it all immediately.”

 As the vaccine continues to become more available, eligible citizens should call their doctor or pharmacy to check availability and/or schedule their dose, Cavanaugh said.  

 “We’re really asking people, ‘Please don’t show up at a pharmacy,’ because they probably don’t have enough. Chances are the few little doses they received are probably already spoken for.”

 Many eligible citizens have expressed frustration at busy signals from pharmacies, she said. “We’re just asking that people be patient. The amount of vaccine will increase over time and eventually it’s going to settle down.”

 Additionally, many doctors in the region have already signed up to be a COVID-19 vaccine site but may not have received any doses yet. “The goal, though, is for everybody in this group to be vaccinated as soon as possible. The limiting step is really the amount of available.”  

 The Louisiana Department of Health’s website maintains an up to date record of where the vaccine can be obtained in each parish. To learn more, visit www.ldh.la.gov.

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