Nearly four months after coronavirus vaccinations began, Louisiana is seeing fewer people clamoring for the surging supply of shots, and that fall-off in interest is happening far too soon to contain the spread of the virus.
Talk of waiting your turn has ended, replaced with pleas for people to sign up for available vaccine appointments and to urge their family and friends to do the same. Persuading people appears to be harder than public health officials hoped.
Now, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, state leaders, faith-based organizations, civic groups and others are embarking on the difficult task of cajoling the uninterested, the worried and the iffy across Louisiana—and connecting those who are interested but have encountered obstacles.
More than 1.1 million people in Louisiana—24% of the state’s total population—have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state health department data. Nearly 655,000 people have been fully immunized, or about 14%.
That’s far below the threshold that scientists believe would be needed to stop the uncontrolled spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus—a worrisome situation as more virulent and contagious strains of the virus have reached the U.S.
To try to combat the low numbers, Edwards is throwing open access to the shots to everyone age 16 and older, starting today, to end any uncertainty about who might be eligible.
The state also is diving deep into vaccination data, to identify which communities they’ll target for more direct outreach. The health department is readying a call center, expected to be up and running within the week, to respond to vaccine concerns and questions and help set up appointments for those with internet issues or who aren’t tech savvy. And the agency is working with local organizations on a planned get-out-the-vote-style effort that will have people knocking on doors and making phone calls to areas where few people have been vaccinated.
A poll released in February by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that while 67% of Americans plan to get vaccinated or have already done so, 15% are certain they won’t and 17% say probably not.