JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri expected to get double the COVID vaccine doses in the next two weeks. That no longer appears to be the case. Chief Operating Officer of Operation Warp Speed, General Perna, now says the state will have a “slight increase.”
“We thought we were going to have a doubling of our vaccine in about two weeks, we learned this morning that is not the case. We will have a slight increase but not nearly that much,” said Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Dr. Randall Williams.”
Uncertainty over the pace of federal COVID-19 vaccine allotments triggered anger and confusion Friday in some states, with officials worried that the shipments they expected won’t be coming through.
Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, said governors were “told explicitly” on Tuesday that they would be provided additional doses.
“That does not affect what we are doing as far as distribution of going into Phase 1B, Tier 1 or Tier 2,” said Dr. Williams. He says Missouri has been working to be nimble in a situation they can’t completely control. “So as we move through 1A, we had people calling us going, we vaccinated everybody in our hospital we have 400 extra doses of vaccine, can we vaccinate people over 65 and realizing those are our most vulnerable we clearly wanted to do that.”
As of Friday, the government had distributed over 31 million doses to states, U.S. territories, and major cities. But only about 12.3 million doses had been administered, according to online tracking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Now, it will affect the rapidity of how we are able to move through vaccinations in Missouri, there’s just no doubt about it. If we are not going to get as much vaccine, we can’t distribute it, and vaccinate it. But the governor has always emphasized, that part of our planning, he insists that we are nimble because it’s a very dynamic situation, much of which we don’t control. We don’t control the federal part of how many vaccines we get, we don’t control how quickly Walgreens and CVS vaccinate our long-term care faculties,” said Dr. Williams.
The two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S. — made by Pfizer and Moderna – are designed to be given in two doses, three or four weeks apart.
For weeks, Operation Warp Speed had been holding large amounts of vaccine in reserve to ensure that those who got their first dose received their second one on time. The practice was a hedge against possible manufacturing delays. When HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced on Tuesday that he was ending the practice, it was interpreted as essentially doubling the expected supply.
But there was another huge change: He also urged states to open vaccinations to everyone over 65 and those younger with certain health problems, even though most hadn’t yet finished all the health workers first in line or moved to the next tier, people 75 and older and other essential workers.
The result was a scramble by state and local health authorities to figure out exactly what amount of vaccine they would receive in coming weeks and how to more quickly ramp up mass vaccination plans for a public with higher expectations.
“What we do here in Missouri, is to make sure that we have a plan in place. For the moment that vaccine is in place the moment that vaccine is available. Whether it be for senior citizens or people with comorbidities, or our first responders or our long-term care facility residents. We have a plan in place and a process,” said Dr. Williams. “It doesn’t change anything we are doing, it just slows down how quickly we can do that. “