Experts express concern about mysterious shortage of promised COVID-19 vaccine doses

Experts express concern about mysterious shortage of promised COVID-19 vaccine doses
Meaghan Ellis
Two Alaska healthcare workers suffer allergic reactions to Pfizer vaccination

Pfizer began distributing its COVID-19 vaccine this week but the so-called "light at the end of the tunnel" already appears to have somewhat of a short circuit. In just the first round of vaccine distribution, several states are already reporting that the federal government has drastically decreased its vaccine allocations. Now health experts are raising questions about the mysterious decrease in vaccine doses.

According to Talking Points Memo, states across the country have reported declines in vaccine allocation while Pfizer reportedly has "millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses."

Many health experts have weighed in with their concerns and reactions to the confusion surrounding COVID-19 vaccine distribution and allocation noting a wide range of reasons that may be contributing to the mysterious stall. Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association for Immunization Action Coalition, also highlighted the number of issues states could run into while trying to plan for distribution if there is no way to accurately determine the number of doses each state will receive.

"It's very difficult to plan when you don't have any idea what you're getting, or you have an idea that's off," Hannan said.

As previously reported by Alternet, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Hospitals pushed back against criticism of Operation Warp Speed's distribution plans insisting "allocation numbers locked in with states have not been changed or adjusted." He also claimed the private-public sector initiative provides allocation reports one week in advance.

However, Hannan argues a different perspective insisting the Trump administration has been "defining down the "official" allocation number to the final amount in the shipment queue hours before doses arrive."

"Mathematically, there are more doses that need to be accounted for," Hannan said.

"I think it's really tough to then hear HHS come out and say that's incorrect, that their allocations weren't cut," Hannan said. "And then hear them say that that's a planning estimate, and don't count on it until it's actually in the queue to order."

She added, "If we do that, if we wait until something is in the queue to order, then there's no planning at all.

The latest development is quite baffling for public health experts who are now wondering where the doses have gone. Bruce Y. Lee, a health policy professor at City University of New York (CUNY) who was involved in the distribution of the H1N1 vaccine, also criticized the lack of coordination with vaccine distribution.

"When vaccines get produced and they remain in the warehouse, that means something went wrong with the supply chain," Lee said. "That it was not coordinated."

He added, "You can't have it both ways: if you're going to coordinate when people come back for the second shot from the national level, then you need to decide how you're going to distribute from the national level."

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