Bill Cassidy 072420

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, addressed the press after qualifying to run for reelection on Friday, July 24, 2020.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccines are headed to Louisiana and elsewhere.

“Pfizer already is shipping vaccine out. it’s on jets flying to locations to begin to be administered,” the Baton Rouge Republican told reporters during a press conference about another bipartisan effort to pass emergency aid for people, businesses and governments suffering economically because of shutdowns and limitations aimed at mitigating the highly infectious and often deadly coronavirus mutation.

Three pharmaceutical companies have come up with vaccines that will stem COVID-19.

Vaccine doses by Pfizer, which needs to be stored in a super cold environment, is furtherest along.

Though not yet cleared for distribution by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, that’s expected by Dec. 10, the New York-based Pfzier began moving vaccines to pre-positioned locations around the country, ready for distribution.

“The different vaccines have different (distribution) mechanisms, but Pfzier is first one going out and it’s going out as we speak,” Cassidy said.

Morris & Dickson Co., a distributor in Shreveport, is involved, he said. And Cassidy has spoken to hospitals that have the deep freezers that can handle Pfizer’s vaccine.

The first batch of Pfizer vaccines should be delivered to hospitals by Dec. 18.

Moderna, based in Massachusetts, has a COVID-19 vaccine that doesn’t require super cool storage. That firm is applying for its emergency use authorization from the FDA. “That will be soon approved and they will be shipping out vaccines soon,” Cassidy said.

A third vaccine has been completed by AstraZeneca, based in England, and is just beginning the fast-track process set in place by the Trump administration to get the medicine out quickly.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted officially Tuesday on guidelines that recommends frontline workers and nursing home patients receive the medication first. The CDC expects about 20 million to receive the shots in two weeks, though it’ll take about five months to fully roll out enough vaccine doses to cover the majority of the nation.

Ultimately, however, the states will decide who gets vaccinated first.

“Already in Louisiana we are getting ready for that distribution,” Cassidy said, a plan which follows the CDC guidelines.

Cassidy said the nurses, doctors and healthcare workers treating patients already infected with COVID-19 would help reassure others that vaccination is safe for the general population to take.

“I tend to think once a nurse has been vaccinated, tells a friend at a Cub Scout meeting … 'Oh, I took the vaccine, don’t worry,'” he said.

Cassidy said he would be vaccinated when his turn comes.

Earlier in the day, Cassidy and group of senators from the Republican-majority Senate and representatives from the Democratic-majority in the House took another stab at trying to get Congress to pass a compromise relief package for those economically harmed during the pandemic.

At $908 billion, the proposal is far less than the $2.2 trillion sought by Democrats but much more than the $500 million that Republicans backed. The two sides haven’t held talks on a relief bill since before the 2020 election.

Later Tuesday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, rejected the bipartisan plan forwarded to break the legislative stalemate.

“We just don’t have time to waste time,” McConnell said. Congress needs to pass a spending bill by Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, didn’t address the proposal Tuesday.

The bipartisan plan would spend $180 billion to add $300 to unemployment checks for 10 weeks and $288 billion for another round of payroll protection for businesses are among the many issues addressed, which also includes a way to help renters out-of-work to avoid eviction.

The bipartisan proposal includes $160 billion for local governments suffering from a drop in revenues.

“Important for Louisiana because we’re a sales tax, tourism, and oil and gas royalty dependent state and all three of those have been hit,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said the plan includes some new money but the bulk of the $908 billion would come from redirecting unspent money from the original CARES Act. There would be no stimulus checks.

“This gets out of dug in positions to reach common ground,” Cassidy said.

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