US has backlog of 6M vaccine doses after freeze delays shipments

Anna Edney and Shira Stein

Snow and freezing temperatures have led to a backlog of six million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the U.S. after a three-day delay in shipping, White House COVID adviser Andy Slavitt said Friday.

There are 2,000 vaccination sites in areas without power and the U.S. is holding doses initially bound for those sites until power is restored, Slavitt said at a task force briefing. The weather has kept delivery workers home and closed roads across the U.S., with Texas hardest hit as its electric grid failed to keep up with the storms.

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House COVID-19 Response Team.

All 50 states, even those not experiencing poor weather, have been affected by the shipping delays, Slavitt said.

The setback occurred as the U.S. vaccination campaign has been ramping up with more doses being distributed and states better prepared to administer them. In the past week, the U.S. had been distributing 1.58 million doses a day, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Thousands of vaccination reservations have been canceled across the U.S. in recent days and some places have worked to distribute vaccines when sites lost power.

“The vaccines are sitting safe and sound in our factories and hubs, ready to be shipped out as soon as the weather allows,” Slavitt said. “As weather conditions improve, we’re already working to clear this backlog.”

Slavitt said 1.4 million doses were in transit Friday and he expects the backlogged doses to be delivered next week at the latest, with most going out in the next several days as roads are cleared and power is restored. The Biden administration is asking vaccine sites to extend their hours to make up for lost time, Slavitt said.

He said the government is opening five new vaccination centers – four in Florida and one in Pennsylvania. The sites are intended to increase vaccine equity and reach vulnerable populations. Those in Florida will be able to vaccinate 12,000 people daily and the one at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia will be able to administer 6,000 shots daily.