Disclosure :: this post is written to provide information regarding the new COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine highlights and information summarized from the CDC.
How To Get a COVID-19 Vaccine in Louisiana
There are currently two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States. The two manufacturers of the vaccines are Pfizer/BioNTech & Moderna. For the purposes of this post, I will refer to these as Pfizer and Moderna.
Here are the differences and similarities between the two vaccines:
Population Age Limit: Pfizer – 16 years old and older; Moderna – 18 years old and older
Efficacy: Both vaccines have demonstrated well over 90% efficacy rates in preventing symptomatic COVID infections
Dosage & Frequency of Administration: Both vaccines are dosed as a 2-dose vaccine regimen; Pfizer’s doses are given 21 days apart & Moderna’s vaccine is given 28 days apart; virtually Pfizer’s is three weeks apart and Moderna’s is four weeks apart. These vaccines are NOT interchangeable. Whichever vaccine you receive for your first dose, you must receive the same manufacturer for your second dose.
Storage Considerations: Pfizer’s vaccine is stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit & Moderna’s is stored at -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Pfizer’s vaccine requires a special freezer (not a regular household freezer or deep freezer) which most hospitals and pharmacies had to special order to store this particular vaccine. The Moderna vaccine can be stored in regular freezers – which most hospitals and pharmacies already have in stock. After thawed, Pfizer’s vaccine must be used within 5 days. Moderna’s vaccine is stable 30 days in the refrigerator once thawed, and it can be stored at room temperature for 12 hours before expiration.
The state receives weekly vaccine allotments. The best way to explain what happens next is this: once the state receives the allotted vaccines, local pharmacies and hospitals are sent a shipment of the vaccine. For the past two Mondays, the state has updated this website with the list of pharmacies that is scheduled to receive a shipment of the vaccine. If you are on the list of people who may receive the vaccine, you can make an appointment to receive it.
Who is Eligible Now?
These vaccines are currently (as of 1/18/2021) available to ::
- People 70 years of age or older
- Outpatient clinic providers and staff
- Urgent care clinic providers and staff
- Community care clinic providers and staff
- Behavioral health providers and staff
- Dialysis providers and patients
- Home health service providers and recipients
- Dental providers and staff
- Students, residents, faculty and staff of allied health schools
What do I do if it is my turn?
If you have not been contacted by anyone or have not yet received the vaccine, you should head over to this website to determine the location of pharmacies that are expected to receive an allotment. The pharmacies receive the vaccine and distribute these on a first appointment, first served basis. You must make an appointment to receive the vaccine. The locations are identified on the website in alphabetical order by parish. Once you choose a location that is best for you to receive it, the easiest thing to do is to electronically schedule your appointment. The website above provides direct links for participating pharmacies for you to sign up for the vaccine. If the location you have chosen does not have electronic scheduling, there is usually an option to send the pharmacy an electronic message. If neither of these work, use the phone number listed on the website to schedule your appointment. If you do not have an appointment, you will not be able to receive the vaccine.
What will I need to bring to my vaccine appointment?
You will need your pharmacy insurance and/or Medicare card if you have one. You will need a driver’s license (or proper identification card) to confirm your identity and date of birth, any medication or food allergies to provide to the pharmacist, and confirmation that you are eligible for the vaccine for the appointment date (for some this will be done simply by providing your proof of identification and confirmation of your age). For example, I was on the list of eligible recipients as a healthcare professional, and I was required to bring in my pharmacist license in order to receive the vaccine.
Things to remember & consider:
It is the middle of cold and cough season which is typically the busiest time of year for your pharmacist and staff. COVID cases are rising in the community and likely the staff is really busy with not only COVID vaccines but likely an increased prescription count due to an increased number of sick people in the community. Be mindful that this is a new process to all of the pharmacy team – I know they are doing the best that they can for all of us.
You may have received a new pharmacy (prescription drug) card at the end of last year or the beginning of this year, be sure you have the correct one in hand for your appointment. The pharmacy cannot just “pull” this information. Check with your spouse if they are the primary cardholder, your human resource representative, or whoever is in charge of your prescription benefits if you are unsure if you have the correct information. This is especially important if you have not filled a prescription yet this year and do not use the chosen vaccine pharmacy as your regular pharmacy with your prescription insurance information.
For Medicare recipients or caregivers making appointments for those with Medicare, please have the Medicare card to ensure proper processing of the vaccine at the pharmacy. This Medicare card is often referred to as the “red, white, and blue card.” If you do not have your card, but you are positive you have Medicare, please have the vaccine recipient’s social security number to process the vaccine and this will allow for smooth processing for the second required dose.