2-19-21 State Vaccine Distribution and Delivery Update
On Tuesday, PA-ACP joined with PAFP and PA-AAP to send a letter to state Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam over the ongoing refusal to include the state’s physician organizations as stakeholders in developing the Commonwealth’s response to the pandemic and plans to vaccinate the public. They said that the state’s new order, without any forewarning or outreach to our organizations – organizations that are partners with the Department on many levels – created yet another hurdle for a demographic that is already struggling to navigate the vaccine distribution landscape.
PA-ACP urged Beam and Governor Wolf rescind the new vaccination order, engage with our physician member organizations, and recognize the critical value our members have already provided over the past year in preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. Having patients get information from their medical homes is also critical to a successful vaccination effort, the groups told Beam.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported that some health care providers had “inadvertently” been vaccinating people for the first time with the second doses that should have been set aside for people who had already received a first dose. Late Wednesday, it was learned that the actions had been taken at the direction of Department staff.
What that means is there are not enough Moderna vaccines right now – approximately 200,000 second doses were delivered as first doses – but Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration says it has a plan to address that: delay when people get that second dose so as to provide time for the vaccine supply to recover from the 200,000 shortfall, along with the promise of better communication with the providers administering the vaccine doses.
At the same time, the DoH and the Joint Task Force with the legislature reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring that Pennsylvanians will have access to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine within the CDC-recommended timeframe of up to 42 days after the first dose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recently changed its policy regarding the timing of vaccine second doses, claiming up to 42 days (6 weeks) between the first and second dose is acceptable. This led to the push for vaccines, as well as the new plan that limits distribution to between 200-300 “providers,” and not the 1700 plus who had signed up for the effort.
It is clear that the new Acting Secretary is adjusting plans in an effort to rapidly improve Pennsylvania’s rank in delivery of vaccines to arms. At midweek, Pennsylvania ranked 47th out of 50 states in vaccine delivery.
The state and federal governments now are focusing on distribution of the vaccines through retail pharmacies, although Congressional and state legislative members have been urging use of central registries. This week, the White House said they would be depending on outlets such as Walmart and CVS, Kroger, Walgreens for broader distribution of the vaccine
On Friday, DoH was alerted by CDC that vaccine sent to providers by Moderna and Pfizer will be delayed. These delays could further impact scheduled appointments.
“Weather this week has been challenging in terms of getting vaccine delivered from manufacturers directly to vaccine providers in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Beam said. “We are working with our vaccine providers to ensure they are aware of the shipment delays as they continue to be in contact with people who have scheduled appointments to reschedule so that people are assured their vaccine.
“It’s too early to know which vaccine providers are being affected by these weather-related delays. We know that the federal government is working with manufacturers and we know that local vaccine providers will be ready when the shipments do get through. Unfortunately, weather delays will impact the ability to get vaccine into arms and providers are working to reschedule appointments as necessary.”
Pennsylvania was allocated 183,575 first doses of vaccine this week, 112,400 doses of Moderna and 71,175 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech. Philadelphia receives its own, separate allocation of vaccine.
Meanwhile, several Democratic State Senate and House members this week called for using the National Guard to distribute vaccines, and others called for a central registry to move those eligible to receive the vaccine more quickly to appointments, rather than having more than 2 million Pennsylvanians spending hours at a time on line trying to find a nearby location where they can set an appointment up several weeks in advance.
The Department has also now started daily calls with providers who signed up to put vaccine into arms. Thursday’s call had more than 1,000 providers participating. The daily calls are largely answering questions submitted over the prior day and providing Department information as it changes.