The mass vaccination site at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center will begin administering injections on Wednesday, adding another avenue for area residents to receive coronavirus vaccines as officials prepare to increase supplies.
About 700 people will receive the vaccinations at the facility Wednesday, according to officials at LCMC Health, which will operate the federally funded facility in conjunction with the New Orleans Department of Health and the state.
Hundreds more doses will be offered on the site Thursday and Friday, when LCMC, like other healthcare providers in Louisiana, is expected to receive the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.
“We will start tomorrow and work our way through Thursday and the weekend,” Dr. Jeffrey Elder of the University Medical Center, LCMC Health’s director of emergency preparedness operations, told a New Orleans City Council committee Tuesday. “We hope to be able to get vaccinated next week as well.”
Vaccinations will be offered to eligible residents who have requested them through LCMC or the city health department. Appointments are required to avoid creating long, first-come, first-served lines that have plagued similar mass-market self-service sites in other parts of the country.
On Wednesday, vaccines will be administered to people who have already been selected from the waiting lists. People who wish to sign up for later dates can schedule appointments starting at 7 am on Wednesday.
The inauguration comes a week after LCMC officials first announced that they would use the Convention Center building to vaccinate large numbers of residents. The plan, they said, was to start with hundreds of doses a day and then increase to thousands as more supplies arrive.
Since the vaccine’s launch began in the US in December, most people eligible to receive vaccines in Louisiana have obtained them through a constellation of pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals.
But in recent weeks, hospital operators and local officials have been accelerating plans for larger facilities that will eventually serve thousands of people a day.
Ochsner Health said it will host a vaccination event at the Shrine on Airline on Thursday, where it plans to administer 2,000 shots of the Pfizer vaccine. Half of the doses will go to patients who received their first dose at a drive-thru event a month ago, with the remainder going to eligible residents who can get an appointment through Ochsner.
Jefferson Parish said he would also host a drive-thru event Thursday at the Alario Center, which is also by appointment.
More than 657,000 Louisiana residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while nearly 370,000 have received both doses, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health.
Since December, LCMC has distributed more than 60,000 vaccines under the Pfizer or Moderna brand names, Elder said, injections that require cold storage or shipping and must be taken in two doses several weeks apart.
But he is scheduled, like other hospitals across the state, to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. This vaccine requires normal refrigeration temperatures and can be taken in a single dose.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 72% effective in preventing moderate to severe coronavirus cases in US clinical trials, but it was 100% effective in preventing death. Meanwhile, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more than 94% effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms.
Residents will be offered whatever vaccines LCMC has available, health leaders have said. Elder on Tuesday praised the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine as an effective way to prevent people from dying from the virus and eventually achieving herd immunity.
“It keeps them out of hospitals and prevents them from dying,” he said. “We cannot underestimate how important it is to get people to clinics to get vaccinated.”
For its launch at the Convention Center this week, LCMC is using a waiting list of eligible beneficiaries compiled by the city’s health department and by its own hospitals. Only people 65 and older, people with certain health conditions, K-12 or daycare teachers, pregnant people, and other select groups are eligible for vaccines.
The hospital operator is also working with the Regional Transit Authority to identify places where people can be picked up and transported by bus directly to the Convention Center to receive their vaccinations.
There are likely two collection sites, one in eastern New Orleans and the other in Algiers, said Dr. Ayame Dinkler, LCMC’s administrative director of health.
Residents who can drive to the center to get vaccinated can park their cars in parking lot F, across from Hall J, he said.
With a mass vaccination site online, a City Council spokesperson said Tuesday that the city is shutting down its own COVID-19 testing sites and shifting its focus to vaccine administration.
Test sites that are managed by the Louisiana National Guard and CORE will continue to serve residents, said spokesman Beau Tidwell.
The city is also looking for volunteers who can help it maintain its vaccination roster citywide, assist at the city’s 311 call center, and work at city-run vaccination sites. About 2,000 people have signed up so far, but the city hopes to at least double that number.
Workers who sign up to help are considered emergency response personnel under state guidelines, although there is no guarantee that enough vaccines will be available for everyone who signs up, said the manager of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness public participation. New Orleans, Laura Mellem.
Appointment details and contact information:
To schedule an appointment with LCMC Health, eligible residents can call 504-290-5200 or go online at lcmchealth.org/vaccine.
To make an appointment with Jefferson Parish, eligible residents can call 504-518-4020 or go online at covidvaccinations.jeffparish.net.
To schedule an appointment with Ochsner Health, eligible residents can call (844) 888-2772 or use the online MyOchsner patient portal.
You can find a full schedule of all public testing sites in New Orleans at https://ready.nola.gov/incident/coronavirus/calenda
Staff writers Jeff Adelson and Faimon A. Roberts III contributed to this story.