On Saturday, the U.S. began the first roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine, shipping doses out to states so they could inoculate front-line medical workers. “We’re not hauling freight, we’re delivering hope,” a transportation subcontractor in Michigan told Reuters, about his involvement in the historic effort.
But already, states report that the hope is being held up. According to an analysis by Talking Points Memo, a dozen states have seen cuts to the initial number of Pfizer vaccine doses they were supposed to receive from the federal government, allocated based on states’ populations. Iowa and Missouri are now looking at as much as a 30 percent reduction in doses, Kansas will receive 37 percent less than expected, and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has said that the state may receive just half the amount the state was supposed to get in December. Maryland, Florida, and Oregon are expecting delays, while Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts was informed that vaccine delivery would “be pushed off to the last week of December.”
On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis said Florida’s 450,000 doses were “on hold,” blaming the delay on manufacturing issues at Pfizer. However, the pharmaceutical company told the federal government in a statement on Thursday that this week they had “successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them.” Pfizer added that it was waiting on federal orders on where to ship out the rest of the current stockpile: “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”
Though the first week of vaccine distribution has seen at least one positive development: Pharmacists informed the Food and Drug Administration that excess vaccine in vials could substantially boost the initial vaccine supply. However, if the federal government is struggling to manage the distribution process with one vaccine, it does not inspire confidence that the administration will be able to handle two candidates now that the FDA is expected to approve the Moderna shot for emergency use authorization.