State redirecting vaccine doses from nursing homes to pharmacies

Updated: Feb. 3, 2021 at 6:28 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is taking about 16,000 vaccine doses intended for nursing homes and redirecting them to pharmacies, secretary Courtney Phillips told a congressional committee in a hearing Tuesday.

The move will temporarily cut wait lists for Louisianans 70 and older who have yet to get a vaccine appointment.

“Doses have been left, sitting there, waiting,” Phillips said. “The speed of distribution is not keeping up with the speed of the allotment.”

In other words, the state has more vaccine doses earmarked for nursing homes than it has nursing home staff or residents willing to get the shot.

Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state’s top infectious disease expert, says only 26 percent of nursing home staff have been vaccinated. About 69 percent of residents have taken a shot.

“I’m encouraged by the uptake rate among residents,” he said. “I’m actually optimistic the staff number will go up a bit.”

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He said he anticipates staff that denied a shot will change their minds when pharmacists return to the nursing homes to administer second doses. Pharmacists will bring enough vials with them to offer first doses to anyone who missed them during their initial visit.

The Department of Health is expected to release new uptake statistics during a press conference tomorrow that could support Kanter’s theory. If he is correct, the state would eventually need to divert more doses back into the nursing home stockpile to meet demand.

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