Historic winter storm delays Covid vaccine shipments across the U.S.

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Snow plow trucks clear a street in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.

Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Federal shipments of Covid-19 vaccine doses were delayed this week across several states due to the historic winter storms that swept across the country, state and federal officials said.

“Nearly all” of the doses that were due to arrive in New York state between Feb. 12 and Sunday are delayed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement late Thursday.

“Every dose that should have shipped on Monday was held back, and only a limited number of Pfizer vaccines left shipping facilities on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Cuomo said, adding that the state is working with providers to “reduce the number of appointments that must be rescheduled.”

It’s not just New York. Samantha Bequer, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said more than 200,000 doses expected this week had not arrived.

“The state is still expecting to receive the full allocation of vaccines for Week 10,” Bequer said in a statement to CNBC. “Yesterday, the state was notified that federal deliveries of Moderna vaccine are still delayed by severe weather. At this time, the state has not been provided a new timeline on when to expect the delayed shipments.”

Bequer said the state is working with providers and advising them to reschedule, but not cancel, vaccine appointments affected by the setbacks.

In Colorado, state officials said earlier this week earlier this week that a shipment of more than 130,000 doses was delayed due to a harsh winter storm. They said the storm affected “a vaccine distribution hub in Tennessee” that pushed back “shipments to several states.”

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services also said Thursday it was notified by the federal government of “continued delays in some shipments and deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine this week due to severe weather.”

The Virginia Department of Health also noted Thursday its expected delivery of more than 106,000 shots will likely be delayed “due to distribution channels in the Midwest and elsewhere that are currently shut down.”

Health officials in California, Louisiana and Georgia have confirmed holdups to their shipments as well.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said earlier this week that Pfizer and Moderna were holding back the shipments due to the weather, which was “significantly impacting shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to Georgia.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment, but said the delays will be discussed at the administration’s Covid-19 press briefing at 11:45 a.m. ET.

White House officials have acknowledged the setbacks in media appearances this week. White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Thursday that the storm poses a “significant” problem to vaccine distribution.

“Well, obviously it’s an issue. It’s been slowed down in some places going to a grinding halt,” Fauci said in a Thursday interview with MSNBC. “We’re just going to have to make up for it as soon as the weather lifts a bit, the ice melts and we can get the trucks out and the people out.”

Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor for Covid response, told CNN on Thursday evening that officials are will have to “work double time next week, presuming the weather improves.” He added, however, that “there hasn’t been a single vaccine that’s spoiled.”

“We’re going to keep these vaccines safe and sound, then get them out to people and catch up just as soon as the weather allows,” he said.

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