- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A massive winter storm is disrupting the U.S. coronavirus vaccine rollout, with governors in hard-hit states postponing appointments and others facing delays in weekly shipments despite recent progress in getting shots into arms.

Clinics in central Ohio told residents 75 and older they’d need to reschedule their Tuesday appointments as they braced for at least 8 inches of snow, while New Hampshire officials blasted out text messages with a similar message as the storm crept their way. The state asked Granite Staters to be patient and wait for a follow-up call to reschedule.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson canceled mass-vaccination clinics through Friday, delaying second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to scheduled recipients.

More broadly, Army Gen. Gustave Perna told governors across the country that their shipments this week might be delayed.

“Gen. Perna warned us that because of the time it takes to de-ice planes, it slows things down at the different regional hubs,” Michael Ricci, spokesman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, told The Washington Times.

The delays come even as the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened two mass-vaccination sites in California on Tuesday and the White House announced its biggest boost yet in the weekly allocation of vaccines.

States will receive a combined allocation of 13.5 million doses in the coming round, a 23% increase from last week’s 11 million and a 57% increase in the weekly allotment since the start of Mr. Biden’s term.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said a federal pharmacy program will receive 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine this week, or double the 1 million dispatched to launch the direct-to-drugstores initiative last week.

The program allows pharmacies to set up vaccination appointments with seniors and others who are eligible in their respective states, without eating into the regular weekly allocation to governors.

The U.S. is recording an average of 85,000 coronavirus cases per day, a steep decline from the peak of 250,000 in early January but still a dangerously high level.

Officials are scrambling against the virus in the face of variants that have swamped other countries and appeared in many states. The U.S. doesn’t sequence enough virus samples to have a full picture of the variants’ footprint, but federal data show the fast-moving “U.K.” type is in dozens of states — notably Florida, with 379 known cases.

Scientists say basic precautions, such as mask-wearing and vaccinating people as quickly as possible, are the best ways to stamp out the pathogen before it has more chances to mutate into stronger versions.

The vaccine push is gradually improving, with an average of 1.7 million doses delivered in the U.S. per day compared to 1.3 million at the start of the month.

Yet Americans seeking a vaccine have contended with confusing signup portals and canceled appointments at times, as states figure out how to vaccinate as many as possible without over-promising in the face of limited supply.

The winter storm added a layer of frustration as states across the South and Midwest experienced once-in-a-century low temperatures, ice storms and power outages.

Mr. Parson, a Republican, said the conditions made it impossible to deliver second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Missourians but that the delay wouldn’t reduce the efficacy of the booster. He said according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the second dose can be administered up to six weeks after the first dose if circumstances demand it.

Vaccination sites also had to close in Kentucky due to the storm. Speaking to 89.3 WFPL radio, Gov. Andy Beshear called the delay “unfortunate” but said it won’t have a long-term impact on the state rollout, especially as supply improves.

“We’re hoping what we’re getting right now is a trickle compared to what we will get late spring and moving into the summer,” the Democrat told the station.

In hard-hit Texas, Corpus Christi officials said delayed shipments put this weekend’s vaccine clinics in flux, while San Antonio pushed Tuesday’s vaccine appointments to Saturday.

On Monday, Houston-area clinics had to scramble to salvage 8,000 doses after a Harris County generator failed and freezers began to thaw.

County officials sent 5,000 doses to the Harris County Jail, Rice University and nearby medical centers. With advice from Moderna, the county re-refrigerated another 3,000 doses for administration later, according to County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

“We quickly put together a plan to allocate and salvage them,” she said.

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