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New Orleans vaccine rate looks good, but doctors say more work is needed

"The COVID vaccines are 100% effective against death, and this community has experienced a great amount of loss."

NEW ORLEANS — Officials in Orleans Parish are feeling encouraged by the vaccination numbers. However, they say the tough work is just beginning.

At St. Mary of the Angels school, an event was held to get people in the Florida neighborhood vaccinated.

"We have ample vaccine supply, there are appointments available every day at sites like this," said Laura Mellem with NOLA Ready. "So the Upper 9th Ward-St. Claude area is one of those neighborhoods that does have low vaccine rates. So you'll see in the coming weeks that the community-based events are likely going to take place where there's lowest amount of uptake."

With statewide eligibility open to those 16-and-up, officials say the real work has started to get those uncertain about the vaccines, the resources and accessibility needed to ease their fear.

"The percentage of people who are hesitant or unsure is shrinking compared to last summer so we're trying to get to those folks as soon as possible," Mellem said.

"We want to make certain everyone gets involved," said LaTanja Silvester with Resilience Force. "We can't do this alone we need more boots on the ground, we need other community organizations to step up."

Currently 23.5% of those in Orleans Parish are fully vaccinated. Officials say that's a good number. Almost 38% have at least started the vaccine process, which also is promising.

"If you want to see the glass as half full, we're halfway there," said Dr. Jennifer Avegno. "If our rate is 37.5, we're halfway to herd immunity after three months with limited supply. That could accelerate, we could get to 70%-75% in a month if we really wanted to. It's just hard work and talking to people one person, one neighborhood at a time. I'm worried that we're getting close to the point where everybody who was excited about the vaccine has already gone out and gotten it and we have a significant amount of folks who have questions, access issues and we've got to get to them."

Break down the numbers though, and areas like Hollygrove, Gert Town and Central City are seeing lower numbers. She says that's a big problem.

"We can't have herd immunity if it's certain neighborhoods," she said. "We as a community have to be fully protected. It's incumbent upon us, the healthcare providers, to figure out how can we better serve folks in neighborhoods that are not getting uptake. What are the reasons? Who are they? What do they need?"

With multiple vaccine events, door-to-door education and other outreach the city says they're working to get the numbers up.

"It's important we all get out and get this vaccine," Silvester said.

And they ask those who've been vaccinated to be an ambassador, letting people know the benefits of giving the vaccine a shot.

If you'd like more information or would like to volunteer, go here.