BATON ROUGE – State health officials have identified the first cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant in Louisiana. The variant, first detected in India late last year, spreads faster and is more contagious than other strains of COVID-19. Federal health officials predict Delta will become the dominant form of COVID-19 in the United States and advise it is a serious threat to states like Louisiana, where the COVID-19 vaccination rate lags the national average.
To build enough immunity in the community to slow the spread of COVID-19, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana joins state and federal health officials, healthcare providers and other partners in urging Louisianians to “Get the Facts, Get the Vax.”
Benefits of Vaccination Outweigh Risks
Health officials have repeatedly stated 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.
Last week, a group of leading doctors, nurses and U.S. public health officials issued a statement encouraging everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated if they have not already because any potential risks from vaccination are low while the risks from getting COVID-19 are high, and vaccines are effective protection against the virus. This group, which includes the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association and many others, issued the statement after a CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting to review cases of heart inflammation (called myocarditis or pericarditis) reported in younger people after they got the COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC committee stated that overall, heart inflammation is a rare and mild side effect among people who have gotten the vaccine, whereas there is a high risk of heart inflammation in people who get COVID-19. The benefits of getting the vaccine are far greater than any potential risks.
“Especially with the troubling Delta variant increasingly circulating, and more readily impacting younger people, the risks of being unvaccinated are far greater than any rare side effects from the vaccines. If you get COVID-19, you could get severely ill and be hospitalized or even die. Even if your infection is mild, you or your child could face long-term symptoms following COVID-19 infection such as neurological problems or diminished lung function,” the statement said.
Dr. Tracy Lemelle, a pediatrician who is one of Blue Cross’ medical directors, said she understands why parents may have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, and she encourages them to discuss this with their family’s healthcare provider.
“As a parent and a physician, I absolutely understand why you would be concerned about getting your children a vaccine – or any medical treatment – that they’ve never had before. I would want my patients’ families to feel comfortable talking about this with me and asking for guidance,” Dr. Lemelle said. “Your child’s pediatrician is there to be a resource for you and help you decide what is best to keep your child safe and healthy, based on your personal situation. If you have questions about the vaccine, or you are concerned about any risks for heart inflammation, ask your healthcare provider about it. But, don’t just avoid the vaccines out of fear.”
Sharing Information through Facebook Live Broadcasts
To share information and answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and other health topics, Blue Cross hosts monthly Facebook Live events. In these broadcasts, medical directors, care team members and others share the latest news about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and give tips for slowing the spread of the virus.
Recently, Blue Cross hosted a “Direct from the Doctors” Facebook Live with Dr. Lemelle and Dr. Emily Vincent about the COVID-19 vaccine. And, in partnership with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana and Ochsner Health, Blue Cross hosted its first Facebook Live event in Spanish, “Conversando Francamente Sobre la Vacuna COVID,” to share information about the vaccine with a Spanish-speaking audience.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see videos of past broadcasts.
Check the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Facebook page to see the schedule of upcoming Facebook Live events, RSVP and share, or post questions for the hosts to answer.
Things to Know About Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine
Your vaccine is covered at no out-of-pocket cost. 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 vaccine appointments. 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.
Take a Shot At A Million
This month, the State of Louisiana launched its “Shot At A Million” program, in which 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, and weekly drawings will take place starting in July.
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.