States report confusion as feds alter vaccine shipments, and Pfizer says it has ‘millions’ of unclaimed doses

A total of 2.9 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech was allocated this week, and 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s regimen are poised to go out next week if the vaccine is authorized this week, 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.

That represents a sharp drop-off from what states were expecting. 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 next week. Some places were intending to use the second shipment to begin vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities, officials said, raising 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.

“This change is disruptive and obviously frustrating,” said Mile Faulk, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, Democrat of Washington State. “We need reliable, accurate and predictable information to properly plan and ensure on-the-ground success for vaccine administration.”

The outcry prompted Pfizer on Thursday to release a statement saying the company was not facing any production issues and that it 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.

The 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.”

Michael Pratt, an HHS spokesperson, denied any changes to “numbers locked in with states.”

“Allocations will depend on the amount of vaccine available,” Pratt added, saying the government was still on track to allocate enough vaccine for about 20 million people to receive their first doses by year’s end. “Each week, OWS will let states know how many doses are available to order against for the coming week.”

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