NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Word that vaccines could be shipped out to states in a few weeks has the Louisiana Department of Health excited.
“We’re extremely excited about that possibility. We’ve been so eager for a vaccine to come,” said Stacy Hall, Director of the Office of Public Health Immunization Program within the Louisiana Department of Health.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui is the U.S. Vaccine Czar.
“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I expect maybe on day two after approval on the 11th or the 12th of December,” said Slaoui.
Louisiana knows what percentage of vaccines to expect.
“What we do know is we’ll get an allocation of vaccine and it’s pro-rata, based on the state and the national population. So, the amount that’s available nationally, Louisiana will get 1.46 percent of that amount of vaccine,” said Hall.
The state has put together a COVID-19 vaccination playbook.
“The October 16th is really an over-arching document and I think we’ve learned we have to be flexible with this pandemic,” said Hall.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require cold storage. Dr. Lisa Morici is a Tulane University microbiologist.
“The mRNA vaccines do require cold storage, you are correct, but Pfizer’s vaccine, in particular, requires minus 70 degrees Celsius storage and so they have to come up with a way to basically store the vaccine and distribute the vaccine with that cold storage in mind. Moderna’s has less, their requirements are less strict, their vaccine can actually be stored in a standard freezer; it can actually be refrigerated for up to 30 days,” said Morici.
Hall said they have taken that into account, in terms of the state’s planning.
“It is something very new to have an ultra-cold vaccine, but we’ve been able to prepare for this for a bit. We’ve identified ultra-cold locations across Louisiana,” said Hall.
Morici says Pfizer may face hurdles getting its vaccine to some parts of the world.
“It’s certainly going to impact their ability to, for example, to distribute the vaccine to parts of the world where they just can’t get, you know, these freezers in place, so I think they’re working on a second version of their vaccine where it would be a dried powder-version of the vaccine,” said Morici.
In Louisiana, some people will get priority when it comes to access to the shots early on.
“So, I think that will likely include people who are going to work, and they know they’re being exposed to COVID-19, you know, those that are nurses and physicians, and they clean and they do laundry for COVID-19 wards, also another priority and I’m not sure what will come first or second will be people that are most likely to get really severe illness and possibly even die,” said Hall.
And while the La, Department of Health is thrilled about the progress made on vaccines, it is urging the public not to become complacent about those CDC guidelines.
“We know what to do right now, how important it is to wear a mask, hand-hygiene and social distancing,” said Hall.
Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.