Hope and frustration mix as Acadiana lines up for vaccinations

Broussard pharmacist Jonathan Landry administers Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine to Lafayette resident Bobbie Merchant. Photo by Stacy Conrad

Father-son pharmacists Ivan and Jonathan Landry learned New Year’s Eve that they’d been selected to get the first doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine the following Monday morning. 

Only 100 doses would arrive, far too few for the more than 1,000 customers who had called into their homey shop, Towne Pharmacy in Broussard, as of Tuesday morning hoping to get their first shots in the arm. 

“We gave 60 yesterday and will be giving 40 today,” Ivan said that morning. 

Customers flooded in, some hopeful to see the end of the pandemic in sight, others frustrated and confused by another set of delays. 

“I am hopeful that this will work for me and everyone and I will be able to be with my family again,” said Bobbie Merchant of Lafayette, as she fought back tears. “Grabbing my grandchildren and hugging and kissing all over them. I think for people our age, that’s our major concern. I really haven’t been going out for nine months. And I haven’t been able to go to Mass. So I am looking forward to the grandchildren, the family gatherings and Mass.” 

The Landrys still don’t know whether they’ll get more vaccines in the coming days or weeks, as the only assurance from the Louisiana Department of Health is that they will get another 100 within 28 days for the vaccine course’s second round, which provides maximum protection from the deadly virus. The pharmacy will start calling the 100 vaccine recipients in three weeks to schedule a time to return for the second dose. 

Dr. Tina Stefanski, the Louisiana Department of Health Region 4 medical director, is cautioning vaccine recipients that they will have to wait a little longer for full protection. And even then, they should still take precautions like masking up and keeping social distance since it’s unknown whether inoculated people can spread the virus.

“It is only after that second dose — one to two weeks after the second dose — that the vaccine reaches the 94%-95% effectiveness in preventing infection,” Stefanski said.

Monday was a mad scramble for both the public and pharmacies — LDH sent vaccinations out to only 107 of the state’s approximately 1,400 pharmacies around the state this week for residents over 70 and those with certain health conditions that put them at higher risk

“LDH notifies the pharmacies on Thursdays or Fridays and then notifies the public on their website on Mondays,” Jonathan said, noting the difficulty in turning elderly people away after the first 100 customers had secured appointments. 

“It bothers me that they can’t organize this,” said Elaine Landry, a Broussard resident who was turned away without an appointment. “It’s not like they didn’t know this was coming. If they didn’t organize this better, that bothers me. Of course it’s run by the federal government. That kind of thing worries me because I think of things like: ‘What if we went to war? Is this the best that we can do?’”