Ochsner patient Anne Powell receives her vaccination from Jennifer Wise, RN and the hospital's chief nursing officer. (Submitted Photo/Ochsner St. Mary)
Roughly 1,000 vaccinated at Ochsner St. Mary in last week
Roughly 1,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have been administered through Ochsner St. Mary in Morgan City in the past week since the hospital began offering it to the public after the state expanded distribution to another population tier.
Ochsner St. Mary Chief Executive Officer Fernis LeBlanc said Tuesday afternoon that just this past weekend, roughly 500 vaccinations were distributed.
These numbers include a few employees, too.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the work that … our team, our leaders have done to get this thing going in short order and have done it so well,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc called the distribution “a work in progress," noting that Ochsner staff on all levels is looking for ways daily that they can better and more efficiently distribute the vaccine to more citizens.
Ochsner St. Mary receives its supply from an Ochsner facility in New Orleans. LeBlanc said the local hospital has a solid supply, and that they received their vaccines before many other hospitals in the area and statewide.
“So that’s a real benefit of being part of the Ochsner Health network,” he said.
Another positive for the hospital is that while they have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases after Thanksgiving and Christmas, LeBlanc said the hospital has been able to manage the increase. He said Ochsner St. Mary has not seen a large increase that is being seen in other areas of Louisiana like New Orleans, Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
LeBlanc said he could not comment on the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at Ochsner St. Mary.
As for the vaccine, those eligible to receive it at Ochsner St. Mary include those that are age 70 or above and have been a patient at an Ochsner facility or an affiliated facility within the past three years. These facilities include urgent cares or clinics. Those who have had a lab test or an X-ray done through the Ochsner system are eligible, too.
To schedule a vaccine, patients should visit the MyChart app or they can sign up for a MyOchsner account at Ochsner.org/myochsner and schedule through that account. They also can call 844-888-2772.
LeBlanc said Ochsner Health System has been working hard to improve its phone and computer systems to handle the record demand in interest for the vaccine.
Regarding the stipulation of being an Ochsner patient within the last three years to receive the vaccination in Morgan City, LeBlanc said he thinks Ochsner Health System set this guideline for its Louisiana vaccination locations because the demand is so high for the vaccination that Ochsner had to find a way to efficiently distribute it initially.
“I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons why it was done like that, just so that we can handle it, so that people are already in our system, it would be efficient,” he said. “It would move fast.”
LeBlanc said he wish Ochsner’s distribution could be open to everyone, but they also have to balance the amount of employees they have to staff the vaccination sites and the dosages given to the Ochsner facilities.
“They’re doing a great job of making it available to Ochsner, and Ochsner making it available to us,” he said.
As for the vaccine’s safety, LeBlanc said he is following what scientists and doctors have said, noting that local doctors were first to get it.
“The experts, the physicians, they said ‘I want it. It’s safe. I’m ready to go,’” he said. “So that gave me and a lot of other folks an awful lot of confidence to say, ‘well, it’s safe.’”
LeBlanc said many of the hospital’s staff have been vaccinated with the vaccinations staggered in case of potential side effects. However, LeBlanc said employees are not required to get the vaccine.
“It’s their personal choice, and when they’re ready to get it, we’ll give it to them,” he said.
LeBlanc said he received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which are given within 21 days of one another, and said he only had arm soreness.
For patients, LeBlanc said the vaccine has brought hope for a return to normalcy. For some medical staff, he said the vaccine’s presence has brought tears of joy after such a trying year because this battle against COVID-19 may be ending soon.
“There’s hope,” he said. “So this vaccine, if I could kind of summarize it in a word, it’s hope.”