BATON ROUGE, La. – State health officials have identified the first case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron virus variant in Louisiana. International health officials identified the Omicron variant last month, and it is classified as a “variant of concern.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and medical scientists around the world are studying whether Omicron is more contagious and spreads more easily than earlier strains of COVID-19.
Health officials advise that the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is for everyone age 5 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine and for everyone age 16 and older to get a booster. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana covers COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots at $0 out of pocket for eligible members of individual and employer health plans. Eligible members of Medicare and Medicaid plans or uninsured patients also can get a COVID-19 booster or vaccine at no cost. This no-cost coverage is required by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. If you have questions about vaccine coverage on your health plan, contact Customer Service at the number on your member ID card.
“We need to pay attention to Omicron, but most of the COVID-19 cases in the United States right now are caused by the Delta variant, which we already know is more contagious and affects younger, otherwise healthy people more easily than earlier forms of the virus,” said Blue Cross Medical Director Dr. Jeremy Wigginton. “Now is the time to sleeve up and get your COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot. The vaccines are safe and effective at preventing death, hospitalization and severe illness. And the booster shot enhances protection from your original vaccine so your immune system stays ready to recognize and fight off the virus.”
Winter months are the peak season for respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, flu and colds to spread, so Louisianians should get their shots now to have the best protection possible, Dr. Wigginton said.
“Many people are planning to gather with family and friends during the holidays. Having everyone who is eligible get the vaccine or booster makes that as safe as possible,” Dr. Wigginton said. “That’s especially important if you are going to be around children younger than 5 or others who can’t get the vaccine. It’s also a good idea to keep taking other precautions that we know slow the spread – wear a face mask in crowded, indoor areas, even if you’re vaccinated, keep six feet away from others in public, and wash your hands often.”
Free Rides to Your COVID-19 Vaccine or Booster
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation is sponsoring free ride programs for COVID-19 vaccine and booster appointments statewide. Many community organizations offer similar programs. If you do not have a vehicle, are unable to drive or have other barriers to getting your COVID-19 vaccine, call 211 to get connected to programs in your area.
And, Blue Cross is sponsoring a “Riding Toward Immunity” promotion with Blue Bikes, New Orleans’ bikeshare program. Through Dec. 31, riders can pedal past the pandemic by using the promotional codes SleevesUpNOLA1 and SleevesUpNOLA2 for free, 30-minute trips to and from their COVID-19 vaccine or booster appointments. The Blue Bikes free ride codes are only valid for trips to and from COVID-19 vaccine or booster sites located within the bikeshare program’s service area. Learn more and see a map of Blue Bikes locations at www.BlueBikesNOLA.com or follow Blue Bikes on social media @BlueBikesNOLA.
How to Get Your COVID-19 Vaccine or Booster
Health officials recommend everyone age 5 and older gets the COVID-19 vaccine and recommend everyone 16 and older gets a COVID-19 booster shot. Those who got the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster shot if it’s been two months or longer since their original COVID-19 vaccine. For those who got the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, booster shots should be six months or longer after they got the second COVID-19 vaccine. The Louisiana Department of Health recommends everyone who is eligible gets a booster dose of the vaccine as the winter months and holiday season approach.
“It’s understandable that people have questions about the vaccines or boosters, since the guidance has been updated throughout the year as more medical data has become available,” Dr. Wigginton said. “I’d recommend you speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist – ask any questions you have about the vaccine or booster, and get their guidance on what is best for your personal situation. But, do not just avoid the vaccine or make your decision based on what you’re seeing and hearing from others, which may not even be true. There is unfortunately a lot of misinformation out there, so get the facts.”
You can call the State of Louisiana’s Vaccine Hotline at 1-855-453-0774 for help scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot 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.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel 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.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We were recognized in 2019 and 2020 as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.