Get your COVID vaccine.

That is the message that has been pounded out from Governor John Bel Edwards and state health officials over the course of the last 3-4 months.

And they have put money behind their pleas, offering adults a chance to win $100,000 and a grand prize of $1,000,000 in Louisiana’s “Shot at a Million” drawing.

“The Shot At A Million giveaway is a fun way to celebrate and reward people who have taken the vaccine, which has proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19,” said Gov. Edwards in a press release from his office. “Vaccinated people are far less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, let alone to die from it…Don’t throw away your shot to be protected against COVID – and to win a million dollars.”

Well, those efforts are slowly paying off as Louisiana is now approaching a COVID vaccine milestone – nearly half of all Louisiana adults have received at least one COVID shot, 49.5% to be more precise.

“We saw a bump in vaccinations when we announced Shot At A Million,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter in the same release. “This is good news – we are now in the most challenging phase of the vaccine rollout to date, and this is now a game of inches. But we do need more residents to go sleeves up to protect themselves and their loved ones against this more contagious variant.”

That “more contagious variant” is the Delta variant, and it’s causing problems in the Bayou State. In an article on louisianaradionetwork.com, Dr. Kanter points out that there are 100 new COVID hospitalizations in just two weeks after we have had months of consistently low COVID numbers. He pointed out the percent positivity on new COVID tests has jumped from 3.1% to 4%.

But, here’s a more telling statistic as it relates to the Delta variant of COVID: while about 52% of new cases nationally are Delta, that number sits at 59% in our region, according to Dr. Kanter.

“If one was to be exposed or contract COVID tomorrow odds are more than likely that they would be exposed to the Delta variant and it is almost certainly causing the increase in COVID that we are seeing,” said Kanter to LRN.

A Look at Louisiana's COVID Vaccination Numbers Compared to our Neighbors

Back to the 49.5% number. That still has Louisiana nearly last in national vaccination rates. As a matter of fact, Mississippi’s adult vaccination rate is the only one lower at just over 47%. Meanwhile, as LRN points out, our neighbors Texas and Arkansas sit at 61% and 53% respectively. Nationwide, the number sits at 67.3% of American adults.

Not surprisingly, adults ages 65 and older make up most of the vaccinated in Louisiana as that most vulnerable group sits at 80%.

Overall, 39% of Louisianans have received at least one COVID shot.

How Important is it to Get the COVID Vaccine?

A nationwide CDC report shows 99% of those who died from COVID in June were unvaccinated, according to Forbes. And, according to this LRN article, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are thought to give about 90% protection from Delta. And the J&J shot "demonstrated strong neutralizing antibody activity against the Delta variant," according to new data released by Johnson & Johnson.

So, do areas with higher vaccination rates have a lower percentage of COVID cases? Dr. Kanter says evidence points to that.

“For example, New Orleans right now has the highest vaccination rates in the state and the lowest percent positivity amongst large areas,” said Dr. Kanter to LRN. “They are at 1.6% positivity this week.”

“It’s encouraging to see more people joining the more than 1.8 million Louisianans who have already taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially as the more contagious Delta variant spreads in Louisiana and across the country,” said Gov. Edwards. “We cannot afford to ignore this more dangerous variant. Regardless of if you do it because of the concern about the Delta variant or because you want to win a million dollars, now is an excellent time to roll up your sleeves and take the COVID-19 shot.”

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