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Dr. Catherine O'Neal, left, listens as Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards speaks as approximately 2,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine arrive for Baton Rouge team members, Dec. 17, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge.

“A very precarious point.”

That phrase comes from Irwin Redlener, a New York physician and Columbia University professor whose name meant a lot to southeast Louisiana in the dark days after Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago.

His work providing and promoting mobile pediatric clinics was one way our little and deeply hurting world was assisted by benefactors from around the nation and the world.

Now, though, he’s talking about our precarious national situation with the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with The New York Times, Redlener said the decline in COVID-19 cases last winter created a false sense of security.

“The fact is that we are in a very precarious point, in that where we go from here is not at all clear,” he said. “On some level, yes, we did drop the daily infection rates and fatality rates, but we dropped them to a level that’s not exactly comforting.”

Redlener said he supported the administration’s emphasis on delivering vaccinations as quickly as possible, and its insistence on keeping mask mandates in place.

“It’s become somewhat of a cliché, but we are running a race between the vaccine and the variants,” he said. “The more time that it takes to get people vaccinated up to a herd immunity level, which people think is about 80%, the longer we’re going to see these outbreaks of COVID-19 that will inevitably create more mutations, more variants.”

It’s good advice from a New York friend of Louisiana. But our hometown heroes are sounding a similar alarm.

With some doses of life-saving vaccines going begging, the pace of inoculation against COVID-19 needs to pick up dramatically. That is not, of course, helped by what we hope is a short "pause" in use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Efforts in the private and public sectors of health care are ramping up this week. A mass vaccination site in Baton Rouge with the ability to deliver thousands of shots each day will open Monday at the Bon Carre Business Center on Florida Boulevard.

State public health officials are opening a hotline to answer any vaccination questions and promoting town halls in every region of the state to get the word out.

“We’ve hit the low-hanging fruit of people who are very anxious, ‘I want to be vaccinated yesterday,’” said Dr. Jeffrey Elder, LCMC Health medical director of emergency management who oversees the system’s mass vaccination effort at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. “Now, we’re in the trenches.”

Getting to the big percentage of Louisiana folks needed to achieve “herd immunity” against COVID-19 will take a big effort on the part of the state. Dr. Redlener’s advice is relevant to us here, once again.

Our Views: Our vaccine numbers don’t add up, and we need more Republican leaders to lead vaccine efforts