A winter storm sweeping across much of the United States has delayed shipments of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines into San Mateo County but officials still intend to vaccinate some health care workers, seniors, teachers and other priority groups in the coming week.
“We are committed to that however we have to,” said County Manager Mike Callagy. “We certainly understand the concern and our goal is to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible in concert with other providers in San Mateo County.”
California Department of Public Health officials informed the county Thursday that a shipment of 14,200 Moderna vaccines en route to San Mateo County had been held up by extreme weather conditions devastating parts of the country.
The shipment would provide 10,000 first doses and 4,200 second doses. As of Friday, the county had still not received word as to when the shipment would arrive.
“Everybody’s being impacted,” said Callagy. “We still don’t think we understand what the impact will be or when things will change.”
Health officials have continued planning for vaccination clinics to be held next week after announcing eligibility would be open to education and child care workers, law enforcement, retail staff and food industry employees. Officials estimate the population is made up of more than 37,000 individuals.
It’s unclear how many doses will be administered through the clinics. After administering 12,500 doses through a mass vaccination site at the San Francisco International Airport, the county will no longer have doses available, said Preston Merchant, spokesman for San Mateo County Health.
“Due to the winter storm, we don’t have information about future shipments, though we continue to plan for clinics next week,” Merchant said in an email. “Once we learn when the shipment would arrive and how many doses it contains, we can plan vaccination opportunities accordingly, for first and second doses.”
Having been distributing Moderna vaccines at the SFO first-dose clinic, the facility shifted to administering 4,000 Pfizer Inc. doses on Friday, Merchant said. Pfizer doses require a pharmacist to reconstitute the vaccine with a special solution and also must be administered within a shorter window of time compared to the Moderna product.
At an SFO press conference Wednesday, Dr. Anand Chabra, the section chief of COVID-19 mass vaccination and medical director of Family Health Services, said infrastructure to administer Pfizer Inc. doses was not in place at the airport. By Friday, ultra-low temperature freezers and more than 20 clinic staff were redirected to the site, said Merchant.
Adapting to the delayed shipment, roughly 75 second-dose appointments slated for Friday were rescheduled, said Merchant. Individuals may receive doses from either county clinics “if supplies resume” or from local health care provider partnerships, he said.
Multicounty entities, including Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente have also been affected by the delayed shipments. Each entity recommitted itself to vaccinating health care workers and seniors. Kaiser has limited its eligibility to those ages 75 and older while Sutter, Dignity and the county have been vaccinating patients ages 65 and older.
“At this time, we’re continuing our commitment to vaccinating our most vulnerable patients, as identified by the CDC, which includes those aged 65 and older, as well as health care workers in the community,” said a statement from a Sutter representative.
Kaiser noted it would reach out directly to any patients the delay may affect to help them reschedule.
“The extreme cold weather that has affected much of the country has caused delays in the delivery of some of the supply of COVID-19 vaccine allocated for Kaiser Permanente,” said a representative from Kaiser Permanente. “We are in contact with federal and state health officials to track these delays and our operations teams are working to minimize any potential impact to the administration of vaccine at our facilities.”
Bill Graham, president of Dignity Health’s Sequoia Hospital, said the facility has not been directly affected by the storm-delayed shipments.
“We know the severe storms have impacted vaccine distribution, however we haven’t been affected by that as of now,” Graham said in a statement. “It is something we monitor closely, so future clinics would be modified based on vaccine availability, as is always the case.”
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