BATON ROUGE – State health officials are reporting a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases across Louisiana, with the highest number of diagnoses since last winter’s surge. The majority of new COVID-19 cases are people who have not gotten the vaccine.
The good news, according to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Medical Director Dr. Larry Simon, is that the vaccines are very effective at preventing death, hospitalization and severe cases of COVID-19.
“Now that millions of people have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, we have real-world proof that it provides strong protection against the virus, even the more infectious Delta variant,” Dr. Simon said. “But, to really protect our community, we need more people to roll up their sleeves.”
The Delta variant, first detected in India late last year, spreads faster and is more contagious than other strains of COVID-19. Federal and state health officials advise Delta is a serious threat to states like Louisiana, where the COVID-19 vaccination rate lags the national average.
“We can see, in Louisiana, nationwide and around the world, that there is a direct connection between areas where COVID-19 cases are surging and where there are low vaccination rates. Getting your shot is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from this deadly virus,” Dr. Simon said.
“If you have held off on getting the COVID-19 vaccine because you’re concerned or have questions, you should talk to your healthcare provider and get advice on what’s best for you. Do not just wait to see what happens because Delta is already causing COVID-19 outbreaks, and the sooner you get the vaccine, the sooner you’re building up your immune protection,” he added.
Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine
At this time, anyone age 12 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine. Health officials advise that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and that getting the jab is the most effective way to prevent getting sick with the virus or spreading it to others.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized three types of COVID-19 vaccines for patients:
Pfizer (two doses), which is available to anyone 12 and older
Moderna (two doses), which is available to anyone 18 and older
Johnson & Johnson (one dose), which is available to anyone 18 and older
“If you’ve gotten one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, follow up and get the second dose as soon as you can. That will make sure you get the highest possible protection from COVID-19,” Dr. Simon said. “And, keep in mind that it takes two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson for your body to build up immunity. Be cautious about avoiding exposure to the virus during that two-week period.”
Other things to know about the COVID-19 vaccine:
You won’t pay anything out of pocket for your vaccine. Members of individual and employer health insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid can get any FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine for $0. This no-cost coverage is included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which also allows uninsured patients to get the vaccine for $0. Blue Cross will cover the vaccine’s administration without any member cost-share (deductible, copay or coinsurance) on most health plans. If you have questions about vaccine coverage on your health plan, contact Customer Service at the number on your member ID card.
You can call the State of Louisiana’s Vaccine Hotline at 1-855-453-0774 for help scheduling an appointment. The hotline staff can help you find vaccine locations near you or connect you with clinicians who can answer your vaccine questions. Or, visit the Louisiana Department of Health’s website to see a list of vaccine locations. You can search by parish to find a vaccine site near you, and you can see which types of vaccine are being given at different locations.
You can get free rides to and from your vaccine appointment. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation is sponsoring ride share programs statewide, and many community organizations offer similar programs. If you do not have a vehicle, are unable to drive or need transportation assistance, call 211 to get connected to programs in your area.
You can enter to win cash prizes up to $1 million after one dose. Through the State of Louisiana’s “Shot At A Million” program, anyone 18 and older who has gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can enter to win cash prizes, building up to a $1 million grand prize. Children 12-17 years old who have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine can enter to win scholarships. Registration is open through July 31.
If you live with children younger than 12 or others who cannot get the vaccine because of medical issues, it’s important to keep taking other precautions to prevent the virus, Dr. Simon said.
“Wash your hands often, and isolate if you feel sick,” he said. “Try to avoid crowded areas where there may be lots of unvaccinated people, especially indoors. If you’re going to be in crowded areas, you can wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth and keep at least six feet between yourself and others. We know from the past year that these steps help us avoid getting or spreading COVID-19, and they are very important to do for our loved ones who cannot get the vaccine.”
Blue Cross has created interactive graphics for its social media that encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone can share or post these graphics to their personal social media and are asked to use the hashtag #GetTheFactsGetTheVax when doing so. Find and download the graphics at www.bcbsla.com/covid19. Blue Cross has also produced Spanish versions of the social graphics, which are available to download and share.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube page to see short videos on the COVID-19 vaccines and other health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates. Blue Cross posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and now, TikTok.
For information on what Blue Cross is doing in response to COVID-19, visit www.bcbsla.com/covid19.