NEW ORLEANS — It could be a huge game changer when it comes to getting COVID-19 vaccine shots in arms.
Monday, LCMC announced it is teaming up with the City of New Orleans and state and federal governments to launch a mass vaccination site at the Morial Convention Center.
“While we’ve been vaccinating in our hospitals and our hospital vaccination clinics, we know that we really have to have large vaccine sites to really get that majority of the population vaccinated for herd immunity and to get us through this pandemic,” Dr. Jeffrey Elder, LCMC Emergency Management Director said.
FEMA is providing a $4.1 million grant to fund the site.
Dr. Elder says they are seeking their own supply of vaccine from the feds, but will go through the normal state allocation process until that happens.
“The message today is we’re ready,” Elder said. “We have the staffing. We have the location. We have it set up. We’re good to go. As soon as we get that vaccine in, we will get people scheduled and we’ll get them in to be vaccinated.”
Patients will have to sign up for a shot in advance.
Parking is free across from the convention center where the vaccine will be distributed to patients eligible to receive them.
“Today, it’s about serving the community as it was when we had the medical monitoring station for nine months here in the building as it will be for this very important vaccinate event,” MCCNO GM Michael Sawaya said.
Sawaya added, getting people vaccinated is good for business.
“It takes people to put on events and we need people who feel comfortable being around visitors and we need visitors to have that same feeling as well,” Sawaya said.
LCMC admits – the mass vaccination site will work more efficiently with Johnson and Johnson’s one-dose vaccine.
That vaccine is expected to receive FDA approval by the end of the week.
The site can operate with the current two-dose shots from Moderna and Pfizer as well.
“Once we get the notification that we’ll have vaccine available, really, it’s going to be a matter of just starting up the scheduling, so we’ll probably need a little time to do that. But, really within days,” Dr. Elder said.
Once LCMC determines when the mass vax site is opening, it will release information on how people can sign up for shots.
The initial plan calls for the convention center vaccination site to open for at least three months. The time can be extended if necessary.
According to LCMC, the site will operate seven days a week, 10 hours a day during the week, eight hours on weekends.
Louisiana received 90,000 vaccine doses this week, but demand still outpaces supply.
State health officials expect the supply of doses to ramp up in the coming weeks to support mass vaccinations.