Why Louisiana COVID vaccine efforts have slowed, even as the U.S. reaches a milestone

Published by NOLA.com | BY EMILY WOODRUFF AND JEFF ADELSON | Staff writers Published May 25, 2021 at 6:14 pm

The U.S. hit a milestone in its vaccination push Tuesday with over 50% of adults now fully vaccinated, according to the White House. But as the overall count of vaccinated Americans ticks higher, Louisiana’s vaccination rate has slowed.

After keeping pace with the U.S. average during the first frenzied weeks of the vaccine rollout, Louisiana has continued to hit new lows in terms of new vaccinations.

At the current pace, it would take around 51 weeks to reach 70% of Louisiana’s adults, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health. Meanwhile, the halfway mark in the U.S. comes roughly six weeks ahead of the Biden administration’s goal of having 70% of the nation’s adults vaccinated by July 4.

There were 40,106 new vaccine series initiated in the state over the last seven days compared to the record 138,283 weekly tally in mid-March. The state has completed vaccinations for 39.5% of the adult population, lagging far behind the national average.

“That’s a big problem,” said LSU epidemiologist Susanne Straif-Bourgeois.

Louisiana — along with neighbors Mississippi and Alabama — is part of a swath of southern states where low vaccination rates have troubled public health experts. Eight of the bottom ten states are in the South, where the percentage of people with at least one dose is at or below 40%. Mississippi is last, Louisiana is second-to-last and is followed by Alabama, Wyoming, Idaho, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, West Virginia and South Carolina.

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Dr. Susanne Straif-Bourgeois is an Associate Professor in the LSU School of Public Health, Epidemiology program.