The snow piling up across the Northeast piled on to Pennsylvania’s coronavirus vaccine distribution woes, delaying shipments from Pfizer and Moderna and promising to cause even more appointments to be rescheduled this week and likely next.
Many in New Jersey will also have to postpone their scheduled shots because of the weather, the governor predicted.
Boxes of the precious vials of vaccine are grounded at manufacturing plants and other doses may get stuck in-state, unable to get to their final destinations. People expecting to get shots should call their providers before traveling, a Pennsylvania health official said.
“A majority of folks might see delays because of the weather,” Lindsey Mauldin, Department of Health senior adviser, said Thursday.
For Pennsylvania, it’s another obstacle — though one officials cannot control — in a rollout that was already upended once this week and has prompted the state to hire a consulting firm in an estimated $11.6 million contract, which has not yet been finalized or submitted to the Treasury, to help with its distribution process.
On Wednesday, officials revealed a shortage of Moderna second doses that will cause tens of thousands of residents to have their appointments rescheduled or delayed. The weather-related delays of the vaccine supply could interfere with the state’s response to the Moderna shortage. Mauldin predicted the state would be able to keep to its original timeline but said officials would have to assess whether that was possible as the storm’s effects unfolded.
So far, the winter weather hitting many states has meant no Moderna shipments were delivered to Pennsylvania on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday and only limited Pfizer doses arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday with no delivery Monday, Mauldin said.
The state’s plan to remedy the Moderna shortage, which health officials have said was caused by providers inadvertently misusing vaccine, requires getting second doses of the two-shot vaccine to everyone who needs one within three weeks. State officials have acknowledged they could have been clearer in their communications with providers about reserving doses.
“At this time, I don’t believe it will change the timeline, but again, I think we’re still assessing that as we talk with local providers and folks on the ground,” she said.
New Jersey closed three of its mass vaccination sites Thursday, including one in Burlington County, and rescheduled residents’ appointments. More rescheduling is likely to come as officials expect supply issues and are assuming deliveries won’t arrive as scheduled, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
“Everyone who wishes to be vaccinated will be,” said Murphy. “But with the current national situation, we must be prepared.”
New Jersey reported 2,748 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 89 deaths Thursday. Pennsylvania reported 3,345 cases and 94 deaths.
The commonwealth has enlisted Boston Consulting Group to help with a vaccine distribution that critics had said was slow and opaque even before this week’s revelation that some vaccine providers’ misuse of doses had gone undetected for weeks before causing the shortage.
State data showed an emergency purchase request from the Department of Health on Feb. 11 to contract with the group for $11.6 million. The request, which was approved the same day by the Department of General Services, said the group’s work on the vaccine will focus on data management, organization and coordination, control tower and communications, smart vaccine allocation, and grant management.
The Department of Health said the final agreement with the firm was not yet complete. Mauldin did not say what it would cost or detail the department’s goals beyond getting help with allocation and distribution.
“Just to ensure that we are continuing to provide the most equitable and efficient response, we find that it’s necessary to bring in a consultant to help us work out some of those complexities,” she said.
The state had administered 1.8 million doses in total as of Thursday.
In Philadelphia, which reported 316 new cases and 21 deaths, City Council on Thursday approved a resolution calling on Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration to adopt a vaccine distribution plan that includes a large clinic at Lincoln Financial Field.
The nonbinding resolution, which came after a public spat between Kenney and Councilmember Allan Domb over whether to use the stadium, does not force the administration to take action, but signaled many Council members’ continued dissatisfaction with the city’s vaccine rollout.
Kenney has opposed immediately using the Eagles stadium, citing the city’s limited vaccine supplies and the site’s location far from many city neighborhoods. But this week he said he is open to establishing a site there once the city gets more doses and the weather improves.
Additionally, the city is in talks with the Federal Emergency Management Agency about opening a mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Staff writer Anthony R. Wood contributed to this article.