Millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are languishing in warehouses awaiting shipment instructions from the Trump administration — even as states are clamoring for them — vaccine manufacturer Pzifer said in a statement Thursday.
The startling bottleneck is occurring as America is breaking daily COVID-19 death tolls. The U.S. lost more people on Wednesday alone (3,611) than the number of people who died on 9/11.
Officials in several states said they were told Wednesday that their second shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine next week has been mysteriously reduced, CNN reported. That triggered fears by states that the Trump administration may be incapable of hitting the target of delivering enough vaccine doses for 20 million injections by the end of the year. A source told The Washington Post that Pfizer executives were “baffled” that the Trump administration wasn’t immediately shipping out all of the vaccine.
Pfizer defended itself amid the rising fears about vaccine delivery, noting that it has no production problems — and has doses ready to go.
“This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them,” Pzifer said in its statement. “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses,” the company added.
A unidentified federal official blamed the delivery change on states’ request for expedited delivery, leaving less time for inspection and clearing of supplies, the Post reported. “We are sending doses that have been produced, verified and released,” the official said. But that would appear to be contradicted by Pfizer’s statement that millions of doses have been ready for inspection, the newspaper noted.
Stumbles already on vaccine distribution echo the Trump administration’s critical problems getting ventilators and protective gear to states as COVID-19 began to surge earlier this year.
Pfizer said it has continually kept President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed program as well as his administration’s Department of Health and Human Services up to date on “every aspect of our production and distribution capabilities,” and officials have “walked the production lines” at company facilities.
“Pfizer has a successful and long track record of producing and distributing large volumes of complex vaccines that the world can trust ― and we are continuing to extend this track record with our COVID-19 vaccine,” it said.
On top of Pfizer’s 2.9 million doses already shipped, millions of more doses of Moderna’s vaccine are ready to go out next week if they’re approved, which is likely. Pfizer will provide an additional 2 million doses next week, according to Health Secretary Alex Azar.
The Post characterized the upcoming number as a sharp dropoff from what states were expecting.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said Wednesday that federal officials informed states that the expected total shipments of doses nationally over the next two weeks have been cut in half to about 4.3 million doses for each week.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) tweeted Thursday that the state’s vaccine allocation will be cut by 40% next week and that “no explanation was given.” He called it “disruptive and frustrating.”
States are reportedly already scrambling to cut back and reorganize planned vaccinations.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Tuesday that his state’s vaccine doses are “on hold right now” due to Pfizer “production issues,” which the company has flatly denied.
HHS spokesperson Michael Pratt insisted to the Post that there have been no cuts to the number of vaccine doses “locked in” to the states and that the nation was still on track to vaccinated 20 million people with the first doses of the two-dose regimen by the end of the year.
One bright spot in vaccine availability is that vaccine vials may have an extra dose or two inside, so that more people can be vaccinated.
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