BOGALUSA, La. — It’s the biggest challenge in getting a COVID vaccine to someone who needs it. There simply isn’t enough to meet demand.
"The state has struggled with getting in numbers of vaccines. That’s the only thing that’s been limiting us,” said Dr. Bryan Miller, medical director at Our Lady of the Angels Hospital in Bogalusa.
Dr. Miller hopes a new one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson will help in that struggle.
“I think that’s a game-changer,” said Dr. Miller.
The vaccine which is being fast-tracked for emergency use could be approved by the end of the week.
“It’s going to be easier to access vaccines,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter with the state health department.
If approved, Dr. Kanter expects anywhere from 37,000 to 38,000 Johnson & Johnson doses in the state as early as next week. That in addition to shipments of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“There will be more vaccine out there. We’ll be able to do events,” said Dr. Kanter. “We’ll be able to supply providers that we haven’t been able to supply yet because of supply constraints.”
As of Thursday, Kanter says statewide about 13 percent of the population has at least started one of the two available vaccination series. He links that do declines in hospitalizations and new cases. In region nine, on the Northshore, which includes Our Lady of the Angels Hospital, just more than 12 percent of the population has done the same.
“I think the community is doing a good job of listening to everyone,” said Dr. Miller.
Miller wants to see vaccination rates even higher. So, the hospital now has a vaccine team, going to schools in Washington and St. Tammany Parishes, delivering shots to teachers and school employees.
“The sooner we can get to 70 to 80 percent of the population vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to some type of normalcy,” said Dr. Miller.
Even if a third vaccine shows up, Katner says the demand will still be high and there’s concern about COVID variants spreading.
“The supply of vaccine is still limited. The first chance somebody has to get vaccinated, take that chance. Do not pass up that opportunity,” said Dr. Kanter.
An opportunity medical leaders want everyone to have.