First Vaccine Shipments Smaller Than Expected

Carolyn Crist

December 08, 2020

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As states prepare for FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines this week and next, they're scrambling to adjust distribution plans to a smaller number of doses than they expected, according to The Washington Post.

Under Operation Warp Speed, federal officials pledged this year to ship around 300 million doses by the end of the year. Citing supply constraints, they're now estimating about a tenth of that — between 30 million to 40 million doses.

That's enough to vaccinate 20 million people with two doses, according to CNN, and Pfizer is scheduled to have only 6.4 million doses ready this week. Based on a CNN analysis of allotments to 27 states, none will receive enough to vaccinate their first priority group, such as health care workers or residents in long-term care facilities.

California is expected to receive 327,000 doses to vaccinate its 2.4 million health care workers, CNN reported. Maine will receive about 12,000 doses, according to CBS News, which is a third of the original estimate of 36,000 doses.

That amount "would barely enable us to vaccinate emergency department and ICU frontline staff," Nirav Shah, director of Maine's CDC, told The Washington Post.

Vaccine allocations should be higher in January and February, the newspaper reported, but still not as high as previously thought. Pfizer will produce about 50 million doses in December and estimates 1.3 billion doses will be available in 2021. Moderna will produce about 20 million in December and between 500 million to 1 billion in 2021.

Next year's estimates will depend on the raw materials, such as nucleotides to create the mRNA vaccines, lipids to encapsulate the mRNA, enzymes, bags and lab equipment used for mass production. The demand has strained typical supply chains for vaccine production.

"Some of our suppliers were not ready for that, of course," Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, told the newspaper. "If one ingredient is missing, we have to wait."

Officials in five states told CBS News that they're "worried" about the consequences that may come from confusion around vaccine distribution at the state level and a lack of funding from the federal level.

"It is crucial that Congress provide financial assistance to support the distribution of the vaccine," Jackie Farwell, a spokeswoman with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, told CBS News.

"We are still considering what we would do without that support and planning for all contingencies, but federal funding is vital to the success of this significant undertaking," she said.


Washington Post, "Trump's Operation Warp Speed promised a flood of covid vaccines. Instead, states are expecting a trickle."

CNN, "First shipments of coronavirus vaccine will fall short."

CBS News, "Initial vaccine distribution will cover fraction of health care workers."


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