What policy changes are next in Louisiana now that FDA has approved COVID vaccine?

Louisiana state employees who are not already vaccinated against COVID-19 could be subject to mandatory testing “and other requirements” now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted final approval for one of the COVID vaccines.

“We are working on a plan and we expect that very soon there will be additional guideline—including regular mandatory testing and other requirements—for any state employee who does not have the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Gov. John Bel Edwards. “We strongly encourage our employees to get their vaccines before these new requirements go into place so that they can protect themselves, their co-workers and the people they serve.”

East Baton Rouge Parish government continues “to have conversations about vaccine/testing policies for city-parish employees, as we have been anticipating today’s announcement,” spokesman Mark Armstrong says. 

LSU System President William Tate previously has stated LSU would implement a vaccine mandate for students and faculty once the FDA granted final approval for one of the available vaccines. Tate said today that a formal announcement is planned for tomorrow. 

“Now that the FDA has provided approval of Pfizer, we will be communicating logistics to the LSU community soon,” LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard says. “We need to fully review the approval from FDA, but plan to implement the mandate on campus.”

Unlike several other major health care providers, Ochsner Health has said it would not mandate vaccination for its employees while vaccines were available only under an emergency use authorization. Ochsner says that tomorrow officials will discuss how the new announcement affects their employee vaccination policies. 

“The Pfizer vaccine has been administered to tens of millions of people and proven to be safe and effective against serious disease and death, with few documented serious side effects,” Ochsner says in a prepared statement released today. “We heard from several community members who were waiting on full FDA approval to get vaccinated and are hopeful that all eligible community members get their vaccines as soon as possible.”  

Today, Ochsner is caring for 967 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state, almost 88% of whom are unvaccinated, the statement says.  

The Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine has full FDA approval for individuals 16 years and older. Pfizer is also available to ages 12-15 under the emergency use authorization.