Louisiana residents who work in a wide range of new job categories will be added Monday to the list of people eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday.
Edwards said the change likely will be the last expansion of eligibility before all residents at least 16 years old are eligible. He said he expects Louisiana will get to that point before the May 1 goal set by President Joe Biden.
Newly eligible job categories include higher education, food and agriculture, manufacturing, grocery stores, transportation, water and wastewater, energy, bank tellers, construction, clergy, information technology and communications, media, public safety, frontline government workers, family service workers, veterinarians, waste management, security and emergency preparedness.
Workers will be asked to present an identification badge, pay stub, letter from their employer or other evidence of their job category, Edwards said.
State officials plan to launch in April nine pilot programs in each region of the state that will combine outreach with vaccination events “to ensure no community is left behind.” The state is partnering with numerous organizations in the Bring Back Louisiana campaign and is seeking volunteers to help knock on doors, make phone calls and, if they have the expertise, answer questions from anyone with concerns about getting vaccinated.
Federal officials expect next month to be able to increase vaccine allocations to states, especially when it comes to the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so the supply of doses no longer will be a major limiting factor, Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health said.
Kanter expects next week’s allocation to be 112,210 doses, the same as this week. However, officials said they will reroute 14,700 doses for the public that were reserved for long-term care facilities but are not needed for that program. While 82% of nursing home residents have gotten shots, less than 40% of nursing home staff have done so, Kanter said. Nursing home workers’ low rate of participation concerns state officials, Edwards said.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to get the full benefit. According to the health department’s most-recent report, almost 569,000 state residents are fully vaccinated and more than 1.5 million doses have been administered.