NEW ORLEANS — COVID vaccine supplies are now higher than the demand to get one and Louisiana is below the national average when it comes to the percentage of people vaccinated.
So now the strategy to get shots in arms is changing.
If you look around New Orleans, there are signs that the city's residents and tourists think the pandemic is over.
At the very least, the fear of the pandemic appears to be over. Crowds are now gathering in all sorts of public places.
And, while the numbers are lower, COVID-19 is still putting residents in hospitals - and in their final resting places.
"The biggest problem I see that we have the vaccine, and to really make sure that people understand the importance that as a population, or as people living in Louisiana, everyone should get vaccinated," said Dr. Susanne Straif-Bourgeois, Infectious Disease expert, Epidemiologist and Associate Professor at the LSU School of Public Health.
Dr. Sraif-Bourgeois says we need at least 70 to 75 percent of us vaccinated to have herd immunity, but at the current rate, the state is not going to get there by fall football season or the October Jazz Fest.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, fewer people are getting a vaccine. Doses are sitting on shelves and fewer are being ordered. Just less than a third of people in the state have gotten at least one shot. That puts Louisiana at the bottom in the U.S. Only our neighbors, Mississippi and Alabama lag behind. LSU Health's Dr. Lucio Miele says the unvaccinated give the virus millions of people to infect, so it can outsmart the protection others got from the vaccine.
“The more viruses you have, the more likely it is that a change is going to happen by chance that makes the virus worse. It's just like if you buy a hundred million lottery tickets, it's more likely you'll hit the jackpot, than if you only buy 10,” said Dr. Lucio Miele, Professor and Department Head, LSU School of Medicine, Department of Genetics, and Assistant Dean for Translational Science.
Dr. Jennifer Avegno says you will start seeing strategy change. Instead of big mass vaccination sites, expect to see more neighborhood events, mailers coming from the state and recorded calls from regional health officials.
“Even though this doesn't get us thousands of people a day, this is where we need to be. We got to work in the neighborhoods, almost block by block. I mean, that's real public health,” said New Orleans City Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno.
The next step could be one house, and one arm at a time.
Nearly 26 percent of people in Louisiana are fully vaccinated. Nearly 32 percent have gotten at least the first dose.