Millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses stuck in warehouses until federal orders, Pfizer says

December 21, 2020

Millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are languishing in warehouses awaiting shipment instructions from the Trump administration—even as states and first responders are clamoring for them—vaccine manufacturer Pzifer said in a statement on Thursday, December 17.

The startling bottleneck is occurring as America is breaking daily COVID-19 death tolls, The Huffington Post reports. The nation lost more people on Decemeber 16, alone (3,611), than the number of people who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center 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.

Indeed, Illinois Governjor 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 State Governor 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.

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’ requests 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

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 HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

The Post characterized the upcoming number as a sharp dropoff from what states were expecting.

Research contact: @HuffPost

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