BATON ROUGE--Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday that state residents will be able to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations by calling a hotline at 855-453-0774.

The hotline also will connect residents with medical professionals so they can ask questions about the vaccines.

It will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

“This is a smart solution, it is timely, and it comes at no additional cost,” Edwards said when he announced last week that the Louisiana Health Department would create the hotline. 

Edwards lifted capacity limits on bars, restaurants and casinos last week. But unlike the governors in Texas and Mississippi, he kept a mask mandate in place for people who cannot socially distance. The aim is to guard against the rise in cases that many other states are experiencing.

Edwards said that helping residents get vaccinated remains the best solution. He said the hotline will address two barriers: lack of access to the Internet and “tech-savviness,” or the time it takes to navigate the scheduling platforms, as well as a lack of access to medical professionals to ask specific questions. 

Difficulty in accessing vaccines due to a lack of computer access has been a problem for many poor people and some people living in rural areas.

More than 2.15 million total doses of vaccines have been administered in Louisiana. The Health Department said Thursday that more than 1.3 million people have received at least one dose and 898,262 people have been fully vaccinated. More than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the state.

The hotline will be staffed by workers who were trained to trace the contacts of people who were infected with the virus to warn them of their exposure.

The health department is training 60 call agents this week. Ten will be trained for clinical support. 

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