COVID-19 vaccine shortages hamper healthcare effort to end pandemic

Vaccine shortage concerns

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Vaccine distributors say they have no idea how many doses of COVID-19 vaccine they will get from week-to-week.

Big health systems and some mom-and-pop pharmacies are making changes to ensure they get the doses they do have to patients.

Vaccine doses are in short supply with pharmacies and big health care systems alike only finding out how many doses they will receive on Friday of each week. The late notice makes it difficult for them to stay ahead with scheduling.

LCMC Health systems President and Chief Medical Officer said they are experiencing the same shortages as everyone. They offered this statement:

“As with all health systems across the country, LCMC Health is experiencing a high demand of vaccine appointment requests due to the lack of supply at the federal level. We continue to monitor our supply provided by the Louisiana of Department of Health and inform our patients and community who qualify for the vaccine as we receive our allocated doses.

“Based on our anticipated vaccine allocations to be received in the coming weeks, we are adjusting our schedules to meet our allocation supply.

“We continue to honor our second doses.

“LCMC Health is in constant communication with the state and continues to stress the urgent need to receive more vaccines. As of today, LCMC Health has given over 26,000 doses.” - Dr. John Heaton, President and Chief Medical Officer

FOX 8 contacted several of the pharmacies listed as providers to find that they too are finding out week to week how much supply they might have. The pharmacies we spoke to are working from wait list where they have hundreds signed up but will only get a fraction of those doses.

Ochsner cancelled all scheduled first appointments and will contact the 21,000 people to schedule each week as new allocations become available.

Ochsner Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Hart said when it became clear the allocations wouldn’t catch up to rescheduling they decided to change methods.

“Stop right there. We’re going to make this change. We are going to reschedule as the supply becomes available. We still have a lot of people on the list that we want to get through, so we are not taking any new appointments right now,” he said.

They stress second doses are accounted for and urge people to keep those appointments.

“We’re disappointed as well that we can’t give more. It certainly has been the highlight of what we’ve done for Covid is be part of the solution so we’re certainly as disappointed as everyone else,” Dr. Sandra Kemmerly, Ochsner System Medical Director of Hospital Quality, said,

Providers say the amount of vaccine available is the biggest obstacle. Ochsner says they have already shown they can meet much of the demand if there was more supply.

When asked how many doses the system could handle if supply wasn’t an issue.

“More than they can give us much more. A couple of weekends ago we did 22,000 vaccinations in one weekend running all of our sites,” Hart said.

Again second shots are available, and those appointments need to be kept. Ochsner will not make new appointments until they clear all those cancelled.

They also are not sure how allocations are made from the federal offices or the Louisiana Department of Health from the state’s allotment.

For example the Ochsner System in Lafayette received nearly 1,000 new doses one week and none for the week beginning Monday (Jan. 24).

In Southeast Louisiana about 2,000 doses will be delivered to the Ochsner system Tuesday (Jan. 26).

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