On February 18, 2021, vehicles will be idle on Interstate Highway 35 heading south in Killeen, Texas.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
Massive winter storms in the Midwest and Texas have delayed the delivery of 6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, affecting every US state, the nation’s leading health officials said on Friday.
The backlog equates to three days of late deliveries, Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor on Covid’s response, said during a news conference.
“Many states have been able to cover some of this delay with existing inventory,” said Slavitt.
The late deliveries are due to three major weather-related throttling points in the vaccines distribution chain, he said. Delivery centers at UPS, FedEx and McKesson that have been hired to deliver the cans to the states have reported staff shortages.
Slavitt said her workers were “snowed in and unable to come to work to package the vaccines, administration kits and other supplies.”
Road closures have also held up delivery of the vaccines between manufacturing facilities and shipping centers. In addition, more than 2,000 vaccine distribution points cannot receive doses because they are in places that are hampered by power outages, he said.
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Because of the strict cold chain requirements for storing the cans in extremely cold temperatures, it is better to withhold the shipments than to send them to places where the shots may expire if they cannot be administered within three days. He said the vaccines are “safe and sound sitting in our factories and hubs and ready to ship.”
“As weather conditions improve, we are already trying to clear that backlog,” Slavitt said, adding that 1.4 million cans will be shipped on Friday. He said the government expected “all residue cans will be delivered within the next week.”
“We assume that we can handle this backlog and the new production that goes online next week,” said Slavitt.
Ahead of Friday’s briefing, US officials raised the alarm that their vaccine shipments were delayed this week. The massive winter storm closed distribution centers, leaving millions of people in states like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi without power.
The Chief Medical Officer of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned Thursday that the power outages and winter storm in Texas are a “significant” problem for Covid-19 vaccine distribution this week. The Biden government is asking vaccination centers to extend their working hours and offer additional appointments in the coming days and weeks to catch up, Slavitt said on Friday.
“If we all work together, from the factory to the vaccines, we’ll make up for that in the coming week,” he said.
Slavitt announced Friday that the government is working with Florida and Pennsylvania to open five more vaccination centers.
Four of the five vaccination centers will be located in the cities of Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Florida. The four locations can vaccinate a total of up to 12,000 people per day. The fifth center will be in Philadelphia and vaccinate 6,000 people a day.