The federal government will help launch a mass vaccination site at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center with LCMC Health, the New Orleans Health Department and the state, according to a hospital spokesperson.
The site will aim to give out hundreds, then thousands of coronavirus vaccines daily as supply increases. Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine will be distributed at the site once it becomes available.
A Food & Drug Administration advisory committee will vote this week on emergency use authorization recommendation for Johnson & Johnson, the third potential vaccine in the U.S. If authorized, the company plans to begin shipping vaccines immediately, promising 20 million doses to Americans by the end of March, according to a statement.
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Louisiana received 90,000 vaccine doses this week, but demand still outpaces supply. However, officials expect a boon in supply large enough in the coming weeks to support mass vaccinations. It’s not yet clear when the site will open.
“We want to assure the community that when more vaccines are available, we are ready to offer them in mass quantity,” said Gregory Feirn, LCMC chief executive officer.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide a $4.1 million grant to fund the site.
Vaccine administration at the site will adhere to Louisiana’s current qualifying groups: health care workers, nursing home and long-term care communities’ residents and staff, teachers school personnel, daycare workers, home health providers, pregnant people, law enforcement, anyone 65 and above and those ages 55 to 65 years of age with certain health conditions.
When supply increases, other groups will be added.
“It is vital that we ramp up our vaccination efforts to ensure that all of our people can be protected from COVID-19, and we need the space to do it,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “I thank LCMC Health for stepping up in the shared effort in partnership with the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center team to put the plans in place to vaccinate our residents so that we can be a stronger and healthier city on the road to recovery.”
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The news comes after representatives said the Smoothie King Center and Superdome were unavailable as mass vaccination sites due to ongoing renovations.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is ideal for large efforts because it does not have the same cold storage requirements as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and is only one shot. Johnson & Johnson’s was 72% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a U.S. clinical trial and 66% effective in a global trial. It was 100% effective in preventing death.
Emily Woodruff covers public health for The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate as a Report For America corps member.