Multiple states have been told by the federal government to expect fewer doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine than initially promised, leaving health officials across the country confused and frustrated about the crucial rollout plans just days after the first doses were shipped.
Officials in numerous states including Iowa, Illinois, Washington, Michigan and Oregon have said that they have been recently told they would receive fewer doses than originally planned for by the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed.
The cause of delay remains unclear to many, and comes as infection rates are spiking across the country. On Thursday, Pfizer put out a statement that the company was “not having any production issues” and that “no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed.”
“We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses,” Pfizer said.
A Health and Human Services spokesperson said reports of jurisdictions’ allocations being reduced “are incorrect,” and that overall states will receive their full supplies, though deliveries may be spread out over a longer time frame.
“As was done with the initial shipments of Pfizer vaccine, jurisdictions will receive vaccine at different sites over several days. This eases the burden on the jurisdictions and spreads the workload across multiple days. This same process was successfully used for the initial distribution of Pfizer’s vaccine, and we are simply applying lessons learned,” the spokesperson added.
That hasn’t done much to tamp down concern among state officials, who are already dealing with logistical headaches in distributing millions of doses. Since the Trump administration decided not to mandate how states distribute the vaccine, changes in shipments force states to recalibrate a host of decisions and planning, including who gets the doses first.
On Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted that the state’s vaccine allocation will be cut by 40% next week, and that “no explanation was given.”
“This change is disruptive and obviously frustrating,” Casey Katims, federal liaison for Washington state said in a statement, noting that the delay will “slow vaccination at long-term care facilities and our ability to protect those who are most vulnerable.”
“We need reliable, accurate and predictable information to properly plan and ensure on-the-ground success for vaccine administration,” Katims added.
In Oregon, health officials have been told that a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine scheduled for the week of December 20 has been cut by almost 40%, from 40,950 doses down to 25,350.
Oregon was told by OWS leadership that, in order to ensure regular allocations moving forward, OWS had to reduce initial allocations and “redirect those doses to later weeks,” Jonathan Modie, Oregon Health Authority Lead Communications Officer told CNN.
“It’s certainly disappointing, but we also recognize that the vaccine is in extremely short supply, and that such adjustments are needing to be made from time to time,” Modie added.
A senior administration official said the federal government is releasing Pfizer doses as quickly as they become available.
“There’s a difference between doses that are manufactured and doses that have completed quality control and are deemed releasable,” the official told CNN.
The Iowa Department of Health said in a statement Wednesday that its allocation of doses may be reduced by as much as 30%.
“It will take us some time to work through next steps and adjust our planning,” the department said in its statement.
A senior administration official said the 30% reduction in Iowa is not a cut to their total allocation for the week. It’s a reflection that all the doses will not be delivered first thing Monday morning of next week. They will be delivered throughout next week, this person said.
On Wednesday, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said he is expecting the reduction in vaccine doses “will likely cut our state’s projected Pfizer shipments this month by roughly half.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was informed late yesterday that they would be receiving 60,000 doses instead of the 84,000 doses they were originally expecting, DHHS spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin told CNN. She did not expand on any reason given for the downsizing but said the state officials “always said the allocations were subject to change.”
CNN’s Raja Razek and Taylor Romine contributed to this report