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Louisiana's Weekly Vaccine Allocation Reaches All-Time High As Johnson & Johnson Shot Nears Federal

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and state health officials announced Thursday that the state is anticipating its largest weekly allocation of coronavirus vaccine doses next week, paving the way for more Louisianans to gain protection from COVID-19.

Louisiana is set to receive a direct allocation of 52,000 doses from Pfizer and 45,000 from Moderna. Dr. Joseph Kanter, state health officer and leader of Louisiana’s coronavirus response, said the state could receive an initial shipment of 38,000 doses from Johnson & Johnson as soon as next week if the vaccine is approved by federal regulators over the weekend.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meets Friday to consider the risks and benefits of approving the new vaccine for use in the United States.

Approval of the new vaccine, which is delivered in a single dose and has less stringent storage requirements than Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, could jumpstart the state’s mass vaccination efforts, Kanter said.

Kanter said he was encouraged by a recent study of the vaccine’s efficacy, which showed that 28 days after vaccination, the Johnson & Johnson shot was 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 and 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization or death.

He added that the study, which spanned the Americas and South Africa, showed that the vaccine was more effective at preventing moderate cases of COVID-19 when put up against the most common coronavirus variants in the United States. The study showed that it was 72 percent effective at protecting against moderate cases in the U.S. but that effectiveness fell to 58 percent in South Africa, where a newer, more transmissible variant of the virus is more prevalent.

Kanter urged Louisianans not to shop around to secure a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

“If someone has the opportunity to get the [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine, don’t fall into the trap of trying to parse one versus the other,” Kanter said. “This vaccine does exactly what we want when we get vaccinated, which is to protect yourself against serious complications and death.”

Edwards said it was premature to describe exactly how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses would be deployed in Louisiana, but said they are likely to be utilized at mass vaccination sites like the one city officials hope to stand up at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Edwards added that he was encouraged by his latest review of coronavirus metrics, which show sharp decreases in the number of new cases and hospitalizations reported in recent weeks.

“I think there are the earliest signs now that the vaccinations are making a difference in our numbers,” Edwards said. “Because while we have started vaccination on 12 percent of our state, 70 percent of those shots have gone into the arms of people who are 60 and older.”

Edwards said prioritizing those most vulnerable to COVID-19 has preserved the state’s ability to deliver lifesaving care.

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