BATON ROUGE, La. – Effective today, the State of Louisiana has broadly expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine based on job roles and occupations. Earlier this month, the state announced Louisianians qualify for the vaccine if they have one or more of nearly two dozen health conditions. And beginning Monday, March 29,, the vaccine will be available to all Louisianians ages 16 and up.
“Many more people can get the COVID-19 vaccine now, and I’d encourage you to check the Louisiana Department of Health’s website to find out if you qualify and see where you can make an appointment,” said Dr. Deirdre Barfield, medical director and interim vice president of Medical Management at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. “When you get vaccinated, you are not only protecting yourself from COVID-19, you’re building more immunity in our community. That is what it will take to end the pandemic and return to the things and the people we love.”
Three COVID-19 vaccines are being given in Louisiana – Pfizer, which is available to people ages 16 and up who qualify, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, which are available to people ages 18 and up who qualify. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots to get maximum protection. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single shot. All three vaccines were reviewed under the same thorough, scientific process before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized them to be given to patients.
“People ask which vaccine is the best one to get, and the answer is ‘the one that goes in your arm,’” Dr. Barfield said. “Unless your healthcare provider has advised you to get a specific vaccine type because of allergies or other concerns, get the one that’s available to you. Don’t put off getting the vaccine to wait for a specific type and risk getting sick with or spreading COVID-19.”
All three FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines are covered for $0 on individual and employer health insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid. 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.
Vaccination Saves Lives, Prevents Serious Outcomes
There is a very low risk of serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, but the risk of getting COVID-19, dying from it or spreading it to others is unfortunately very high, Dr. Barfield said.
“While older adults and people with long-term health conditions are at higher risk, it’s just as important that people who are young and healthy get the COVID-19 vaccine when they can. Not only will this prevent you from giving it to someone who is a higher risk, be aware that hospitalization and death are not the only serious outcomes from COVID-19,” Dr. Barfield said. “We are seeing more reports of younger people who got COVID-19 and had a mild case at first but now have long-term side effects. This is affecting their quality of life and keeping them from doing the things they always have.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says long-term side effects from COVID-19 can include fatigue, shortness of breath, pain, difficulty concentrating or thinking, headaches and/or racing heartbeat. More serious cases can include heart, lung or kidney damage, neurological problems and/or behavioral health conditions.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and can prevent this deadly virus and its lingering effects,” Dr. Barfield said. “If you are concerned, talk to your healthcare provider and get answers to your questions. But, don’t avoid the vaccine out of fear or misunderstanding about how it works.”
Get the Facts, Get the Vax
Blue Cross is part of a nationwide “community connectors” effort among health insurers to get as many people as possible vaccinated. Outreach is focused on adults 65 and older, and residents of Black, Hispanic and minority communities. These groups are at a higher risk of death and severe complications from COVID-19.
In Louisiana, Blue Cross is working with the New Orleans and Baton Rouge chapters of 100 Black Men in a Get the Facts, Get the Vax outreach effort. They are sharing information about how the COVID-19 vaccines were developed and helping people feel comfortable getting immunized when they can.
Last week, both organizations hosted “A Candid Conversation About the COVID-19 Vaccine,” a Facebook Live event to give facts about the vaccines and answer questions. You can watch a recording of the event here. (55:35)
Earlier this month, both groups joined Baton Rouge General (BRG) to host a mass vaccination event in North Baton Rouge at Gloryland Baptist Church. Similar events will take place to make the vaccine more accessible to people who may have transportation challenges or other issues that make it harder for them to get to vaccine sites.
And, Blue Cross joins the Baton Rouge Health District and its member organizations in a COVID Safe outreach campaign. This campaign features Louisiana healthcare providers sharing their COVID-19 vaccination experiences to lead by example.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short videos with medical directors and other experts discussing COVID-19 and other health topics. Subscribe to the channel to know when new videos are added. You can also connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates on COVID-19 and other health topics.
For more on what Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is doing for customers during 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.