New experiences continue for former JAG officer, assistant DA

Dracos Burke, 101, waits to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Walgreen’s located on St. Peter Street in New Iberia on Wednesday. Burke received the first shot of the two-stage Moderna vaccine and returns for his second shot later in the month.

It’s a pretty safe bet that when you say “He’s seen it all” to describe Dracos Burke’s life, you aren’t using a cliché. It’s just a statement of fact.

Burke retired as a colonel after a 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force, where he finished as a staff judge advocate for the Strategic Air Command. He then served for 18 years as an assistant district attorney in the 16th Judicial District Court.

One of the cases he tried as a prosecutor was the first-degree murder trial of Elmo Patrick Sonnier, earning Burke an appearance in Sister Helen Prejeans’ book, “Dead Man Walking.”

And, even at 101, he is still adding experiences. On Thursday, he received the first part of the two-stage Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, joining 170,389 other Louisianians who have had the first shot.

The state does not track vaccinations by parish, so it is hard to gauge how many people in the Teche Area have been vaccinated so far. But there have been 30,988 people statewide who have completed both courses of the vaccination.

Burke received his shot at the Walgreens Pharmacy on St. Peter Street, at the corner of Landry Road. It is one of the four locations the state lists as sites for vaccinations in Iberia Parish.

Although not listed on the state’s website, Iberia Medical Center is also offering vaccinations for those people over 70 years of age. The hospital is even reaching out to its patients who were at the hospital at some point during 2020 and who are over 70 years old to see if they are interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This will be a large and complex undertaking, but we are committed to doing our part, along with area pharmacies and other medical partners, to vaccinate our community in accordance with CDC guidelines,” said IMC Chief Executive Officer Dionne Viator. “The vaccine is the next step in overcoming COVID-19.”

Additionally, the hospital is asking Iberia Parish residents 70 years and older interested in being placed on the hospital’s waiting list for a vaccination to email their name, date of birth, address, phone number and family medicine physician to covid19@iberiamedicalcenter.com.

Both IMC and Franklin Foundation Hospital are offering those Tier 1 residents the opportunity to receive a vaccination. Both hospitals have already vaccinated staff members.

Currently, the state is in Phase 1B, Tier 1 of its vaccine implementation plan. What that means in plain English is that right now those residents over 70 years of age or who work in a first-line, patient-contact-required healthcare field can receive vaccinations.

Some parishes are making vaccinations available to other groups, like educators and first responders, but that is not directed at the state level.

The next stage, Phase 1B, Tier 2, will open up vaccinations to other health care workers, first responders and essential workers. That phase will be announced when the state finds that it is only filling 80 percent of its appointments for those Tier 1 patients seeking vaccinations.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, everybody else should see vaccinations made available in late spring or early summer.

For now, Burke just has to wait 28 days until he can get the second part of his vaccination.

For everyone else, there is a list of providers where those who qualify under Phase 1B Tier 1 can receive a vaccination in the Teche Area. That list will be updated regularly online at covidvaccine.la.gov.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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