A Louisiana city's vaccination test run

Coronavirus Daily

A Louisiana city's vaccination test run

In just a few weeks, the first doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the U.S. could start shipping. Reaching millions of Americans will take much longer, though state and local health officials are getting ready now.

In Louisiana, health officials used influenza season to test their plans. For the first time, the state hosted drive-thru clinics across all of its nine public-health regions. These were official exercises to practice vaccinating the state's nearly 5 million residents in the era of social distancing.   

"Unlike with testing, we have the luxury to have four to five months to plan," said Frank Welch, a doctor who is Louisiana's immunization director.

Health-care workers administer flu shots at a drive-thru flu shot clinic at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Photographer: Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg

Shreveport, a city in the northwest corner of Louisiana, held the regional health department's largest-ever vaccination clinic in the massive parking lot that houses the state fair. On a day earlier this month, drivers filled out paperwork in their cars, and nurses jabbed them with shots through their rolled-down windows. People were on their way within about five minutes, exiting the parking lot while passing a row of food stands selling corn dogs, roasted nuts and lemonade.

By the end of the day, only about 400 of the 1,500 doses were administered. Martha Whyte, a doctor who is the regional health director, attributed the low turnout to it already being November and people getting vaccinated earlier in the fall. Still, she worries people won't take Covid-19 vaccines when they become available.

Whyte already struggles to persuade people to wear masks and prove the pandemic isn't a hoax. She knows first-hand that the virus is very real. Her husband spent two months on a ventilator, nearly dying multiple times before receiving convalescent plasma.

"All I can do is tell them what this virus is, what it's going to do and what they need to do in response," Whyte said. Getting them to take a shot could be the next battle.--Angelica LaVito

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