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New Orleans wants federal vaccine site, but with extra doses


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana is asking President Joe Biden’s administration to establish one of its planned federal coronavirus vaccine sites at the New Orleans convention center, but state officials would like that site to come with extra doses of the shots rather than a reshuffling of current supply.

Negotiations continue with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Key questions remain unanswered about how such a site could be financed and whether that would help Louisiana get new doses of the vaccine, said Dr. Joe Kanter, the top public health adviser to Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Kanter said the city is prepared to staff the vaccination site itself, working with LCMC Health, which operates six hospitals and urgent care centers in the region. But Kanter said the city “would like some financial reimbursement on it. And the doses would be important to all of us. So, those are the two biggest things.”

The Biden administration said it intends to open 100 federal vaccination sites by the end of the month in an effort to speed the immunizations, with the first two locations opened Tuesday in California. But governors and health officials around the country are mixed on the offer because they don’t necessarily need more places to administer the vaccine, but simply more doses overall.

Kanter said FEMA has set the distinction that a “pilot site” comes with extra vaccine doses supplied by the federal government, while other federally-supported vaccination sites will not.

“Our request to FEMA is for their assistance in a pilot site which would include additional doses,” he said Thursday. “It’s very important to us to get extra doses for it.”

Louisiana has not received a timeline on when FEMA will make a decision about its request, and the federal agency did not immediately respond Friday to emails seeking more information.

Beyond the federal vaccination sites, the Biden administration has been increasing the vaccine doses sent weekly to states, through the allocations that states get to distribute to vaccine providers and through direct shipments to pharmacies.

Edwards has declined to establish mass immunization sites in Louisiana, saying the state does not yet have enough vaccine supply for such efforts. The governor instead has preferred to use a network of community vaccine sites, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies around Louisiana to make sure all parishes have access to doses.

Nearly 542,000 people in the state have received at least their first dose of the two-dose vaccine so far, with more than 271,000 people getting both doses, according to health department data. Louisiana ranked 21st among states Friday in the number of vaccine doses administered per capita, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This week’s vaccine shipments to Louisiana and several other states have been delayed by icy weather that has disrupted electricity and closed roads. Between the stalled shipments and the travel difficulties, many immunization appointments around Louisiana have been canceled and will have to be rescheduled.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

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