Louisiana is next to last when it comes to vaccination rates. Thank goodness for Mississippi.
We can’t blame Gov. John Bel Edwards. He’s pushed COVID-19 safety for the length of the global pandemic, and he’s made vaccinations a priority since vaccines became available.
Our state isn’t doing well with making our paradise safer because many of our parishes aren’t doing well. The novel coronavirus is nothing to joke about. It isn’t a virus that should be ignored. It has killed more than 3.9 million globally, more than 600,000 nationally and more than 10,750 in Louisiana. Now there’s a particularly dangerous Delta variant. It’s in all 50 states, including this one.
Unvaccinated people are most at risk, and that’s our biggest problem. There are more of us who are unvaccinated than those who are vaccinated. State epidemiologist Theresa Sokol said we need to worry about East Baton Rouge, Lafourche, Livingston, St. Mary and Tangipahoa parishes.
Fortunately, compared to the same three months of last year before the vaccines, our coronavirus death rate is down by 74% so far. That’s good news. But it’s not good enough. For the most part, the vaccinated among us aren’t getting sick with COVID-19, going into the hospital and dying. Yes, people are still dying.
President Joe Biden set the Fourth of July as a goal for the nation to reach 70% of the nation’s population being at least partially vaccinated. We didn’t reach that, and Louisiana didn’t help. The state COVID-19 vaccination lottery is an attempt to help encourage people to get inoculated, but our overall state vaccination rate is only 35%.
East Baton Rouge Parish is above the state vaccination average rate with a 39% vaccination rate. But the chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge is sickened when she sees the impact, especially given that a lifesaving opportunity is available. “It is a crying shame to see a 55-year-old woman dying of breast cancer because she didn’t get a mammogram,” Dr. Catherine O’Neal said. “And it is a crying shame to watch someone die of COVID because they didn’t get a vaccine available at every pharmacy in the city.”
Dr. Sandra Kemmerly, Ochsner’s medical director for hospital quality, said hospitals in Baton Rouge and north Louisiana continue to see COVID-19 patients hospitalized. As some proof that vaccinations work, Kemmerly noted that no fully vaccinated patient died in recent weeks. And patients are getting younger.
Our overall state vaccination rates aren’t good. Many rural parishes are among the least-vaccinated in America. That's a continuing threat to the many older residents, even beyond the risks to the general population.
Those of us who are fully vaccinated can help by encouraging those who have not got the shots to get vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated can help by asking trusted family, friends, faith leaders and health professionals about vaccinations. We must be aware of the significantly more deadly Delta variant and take precautions. We can do better. We must do better.