By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana officials expect to receive almost 40,000 doses of a new type of COVID-19 vaccine the first week it is available, which could be as early as next week.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe for emergency use, likely paving the way for authorization as soon as Friday.
Dr. Joe Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health said Thursday he expects the state’s first allocation to include at least 37,000 doses on top of the state’s share of the two already approved vaccines, which next week is expected to total a little less than 100,000 doses.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single dose to get the full benefit, rather than two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. It also is less delicate and easier to store, which creates more options for distribution, Kanter said.
About 13% of the state’s population has gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, according to state officials. About 70% of them are at least 60 years old.
Kanter said vaccinating people who are at high risk of developing serious complications is likely one of the main reasons the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals currently stands at 679, about one-third as many as just a few weeks ago. The percentage of COVID-19 tests that are coming back positive is about 5%, also about a third of what it was.
Gov. John Bel Edwards indicated Thursday the improving numbers may allow him to loosen restrictions in place to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Those decisions will be made and announced next week, he said.
Almost 428,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Louisiana, and almost 409,000 people are believed to have recovered. At least 8,885 people with the illness have died, not counting 676 deaths that are possibly COVID-19-related but have not been confirmed as such, according to state health officials.