Ochsner Health, Louisiana’s largest nonprofit hospital network, will receive 9,375 COVID-19 vaccine doses in the first shipment, expected sometime next week, officials with the system said in a press conference on Friday.
The vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, will be shipped directly to three Ochsner hubs within hours of an FDA emergency use authorization, which is expected later today.
The hubs are located in the New Orleans area, Lafayette, and Shreveport, and have the ultra-cold freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccine. Each will be responsible for distributing vaccines across its respective region.
The largest Ochsner shipment — 5,125 — will go to the New Orleans area. Lafayette will get 2,925 doses, and Shreveport will get 1,325.
Louisiana will receive 39,000 total doses of the vaccine in the first shipment, much of which will be shipped directly to individual healthcare systems. A spokesperson for LCMC has said that it does not know exactly how many doses it will receive.
Those doses coming to Ochsner will not cover all of its frontline healthcare workers who are eligible to be vaccinated in the first phase of immunizations, as recommended by LDH and the CDC. Ochsner did not respond to a question about exactly how many employees it has that fit those criteria.
Ochsner will use every dose within five days, and will rely on a follow-up shipment from the federal government for the required second shot, which must be given 21 days after the first. The state will be tracking the need for follow up shots using its existing immunization tracking system, LINKS. The reported 95 percent efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine only happens seven days after the second shot.
Ochsner has separated its frontline employees into three “tiers” to prioritize vaccines, said Katherine Baumgarten, Ochsner’s medical director of infection control and prevention, based on employees’ risk of exposure to COVID. When the vaccine is ready for each tier, employees will receive a notification to come in for immunization.
The first tier, which will likely receive vaccines in the coming week, is made up of people who work on COVID wards, emergency rooms, and in urgent cares. That includes non-medical staff who work in those settings, not just doctors and nurses.
The second tier will include people “who may go to these units, may have some contact with people have COVID, but not as much as that first tier,” like a physician who occasionally treats COVID patients.
The final tier will be people who don’t have direct patient contact.
“There should not be a huge lag time between people in one tier versus another tier,” said Baumgarten, because Ochsner anticipates receiving more doses each of the following weeks. “We think it’ll probably be just a matter of weeks before we can get everybody who wants the vaccine vaccinated.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards has said that the state expects to receive another 40,000 doses of the vaccine a week after the first shipment, but Ochsner does not yet know how many it will receive in that second round.
The first phase of vaccinations also includes residents and staff at long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Edwards has said that the first shipments of Moderna’s vaccine, which is expected to be given emergency authorization within the month, will go to those facilities. At a press conference yesterday, Dr. Joseph Kanter, the assistant secretary for the Louisiana Office of Public Health, said that the state expects to have 80,000 Moderna doses by December 27.