Trump didn't get the election win he wanted, and Trump didn't get the vaccine credit headlines he wanted, so now states, even red ones, aren't getting the vaccine doses they wanted.
Officials in multiple states said they were alerted late Wednesday that their second shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine next week had been reduced, sparking widespread confusion and spurring the company’s CEO to put out a statement saying it had millions more doses than were being distributed.
The changes prompted concern in health departments across the country about whether Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine accelerator, was capable of distributing doses quickly enough to meet the target of delivering first shots to 20 million people by year’s end. A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans, said the revised estimates for next week were the result of states requesting an expedited timeline for locking in future shipments — from Friday to Tuesday — leaving less time for federal authorities to inspect and clear available supply.
But Pfizer released a statement on Thursday that seemed at odds with that explanation, saying the company faced no production issues and had more doses available than were being distributed.
“We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses,” the statement read.
A total of 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was cleared for shipment this week, and 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s regimen are poised to go out next week if the vaccine is authorized, as expected. That will be on top of additional supply from Pfizer, which Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday would amount to 2 million doses next week.
That represents a sharp drop-off from what states were expecting, according to health officials in several states. At least three states received notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday informing them of the shortfall, forcing last-minute changes to vaccine distribution plans for next week. Some places were intending to use the second shipment from Pfizer to begin vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities, officials said, creating dilemmas about whether to go ahead with those plans or to finish inoculating health-care providers on the front lines of the intensifying pandemic.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said anticipated shipments to the state in the next two weeks had been cut roughly in half. The uncertainty was even more pronounced in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said new shipments from Pfizer were “on hold,” as officials in his administration reported their expected allocation disappearing entirely in Tiberius, the online tracking system the Trump administration is using to coordinate with the states. Fred Piccolo Jr., a spokesman for DeSantis, said the numbers had come back online by Thursday but had been reduced significantly.
“It’s 40 percent less than we were originally thinking,” Washington State Health Secretary John Wiesman said in an interview on Thursday. “We thought we were getting 74,100 and now we are planning for 44,850 doses.”
Pfizer’s statement seemed to point responsibility at the federal government.
“We have continuously shared with Operation Warp Speed and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through weekly meetings every aspect of our production and distribution capabilities,” it continued. “They have visited our facilities, walked the production lines and been updated on our production planning as information has become available.”