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Louisiana may expand vaccine eligibility soon

The federal government wants states to offer the vaccine to anyone 65 years and older.

NEW ORLEANS — We may hear as early as Thursday if Governor John Bel Edwards plans to open vaccine distribution to additional groups.

Louisiana has steadily increased the number of places people can receive a Covid-19 shot. They are now available at more than 400 locations across the state.

But, unlike many other states, Louisiana has yet to expand the pool of people eligible for a vaccine.

“My question is why is it taking so long,”  said retired physical therapist Henry Lewis from Destrehan.

“A lot of us are asking why, why are we not following what is recommended in this country,” said Northshore real estate agent Claudia Seligman.

The federal government wants states to offer the vaccine to anyone 65 years and older and to people under 65 who have certain medical conditions that put them at greater risk for catching Covid-19.

But in Louisiana, the vaccine is still only available to those 70 and older, frontline workers, people with kidney failure and people who live and work at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Seligman wants to know when her age group can the vaccine.

“I have friends from college that are all about my age, 68 and 69,” Seligman said. “They live in Florida. They live in Texas. They live in New York and they’ve all gotten the vaccine, both doses.”

Lewis says there should be no limitations on who can get a vaccine.

“This thing can get out of control in a minute,” Lewis said. “If you see last week what’s happening down on Bourbon Street, this thing could spread in a minute, so while we’re waiting, other states are giving people the vaccine.”

More than 384,000 of Louisiana’s 4.6 million residents have received at least the first dose of the two-dose coronavirus vaccine so far and nearly 104,000 people received both doses, according to the latest data from the state health department.

The governor is expected to announce possible changes to the state’s vaccine rollout during his Coronavirus briefing, Thursday afternoon.

His office released this statement:

“Governor Edwards wants everyone who needs and wants one of the COVID-19 vaccines to be able to get one as soon as possible, however supply has long been the limiting factor in Louisiana and other states.  He has always said that as the allocations ramp up to meet the demand the groups eligible to receive them will expand, and that is happening.  As for the age limit, the initial guidance from the federal immunization advisory panel was for those 75 and older, but based on the number of people in Louisiana who are suffering and dying the most from COVID Gov. Edwards lowered the age to 70.  It was only recently that the recommendation changed to 65. Gov. Edwards is encouraged by the increase in vaccines the state has started receiving, and that will factor into how soon more groups can be added."

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