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Louisiana healthcare workers get first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Ochsner's CEO Warner Thomas said about a thousand of the health care system's 10,000 healthcare workers could receive the vaccine Monday morning.

NEW ORLEANS — The largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history is underway, including in Louisiana where an Oschner Health nurse received the first shot in the state.

Nearly 10,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in Louisiana over the weekend Of those, a little more than half were delivered to the Greater New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Bayou regions

All of the doses will go to healthcare workers who are on the front lines of treating the virus.

"Today is a very exciting day because after months of work we finally have the first vaccine against COVID-19," Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said. "Here in Louisiana, we're excited to get started today."

Louisiana Gov. John Bel said the state will receive nearly 40,000 doses over the next three days.

"This is the beginning of the end," Edwards said. "We're not at the end yet. The vaccine by itself is not going to end this pandemic. We have to have vaccinations, and the process started today."

Edwards said he is hopeful that the Moderna vaccine will only be about a week or so away, which will be given to long-term care residents and staff.

Hospitals are rolling out the first small shipments, as boxes of precious frozen vials arrive at locations around the country. 

The injections begin an effort to try to beat back the coronavirus — a day of hope amid grief as the nation’s death roll nears a staggering 300,000. 

How well initial vaccinations go will help reassure a wary public when it’s their turn sometime next year. Edwards said he expects it to be as long as six months before the general public will be able to get the vaccine.

"We will do this in phases, by priority," Edwards said.

The governor again urged residents to continue to follow practices like social distancing and wearing masks, especially during the holiday season.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.