90% of Washington vaccination supply delayed because of weather

VIDEO: COVID vaccine appointments being canceled due to winter storms

More people are getting calls telling them their COVID-19 vaccination appointments have been canceled because of winter weather.

But the Washington State Department of Health is expecting things to improve dramatically, and soon. Starting next week, increased federal allocation means more pharmacies will be getting additional vaccine doses.

But first, the weather across the country is going to have to cooperate.

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“We’re in a holding pattern until weather in the East Coast lightens up and the vaccine can ship out,” said Michelle Roberts, the state Department of Health’s acting assistant secretary.

She said on Thursday that more than 90% of the week’s vaccine allocation will arrive late.

“Unfortunately this week we’ve encountered a hurdle,” Roberts said. It means many pharmacies and vaccination sites are canceling appointments.

Amelia Hagen said her mom’s second vaccination was set for Saturday in Centralia.

“This afternoon she received a phone call from that specific vaccine site in Centralia and they said because of the winter weather going on, and because FedEx and UPS are based out in Tennessee and Kentucky, that’s likely to impact the vaccine shipment,” Hagen said.

Hagen said it’s a Safeway-run event but the organizers said her mom will be automatically rescheduled for sometime early next week.

“Disappointed she can’t get the second shot Saturday but also relieved that people were staying on top of it” Hagen said.

Even Gov. Jay Inslee’s second dose scheduled for Friday was in question.

“Apparently my dose is at the Memphis airport,” Inslee said in response to a reporter question, during a Puyallup school tour on Thursday.

The Governor’s office has since confirmed that both and first lady Trudy will get their shots second shots Friday, as scheduled.

The state health secretary says Washington has only been getting one-third of requested vaccine shipments.

“Which means we had to make very difficult choices,” said Umair Shah, the Washington State secretary of health. “It’s very complicated, but also very simple. We don’t have enough vaccine coming into the state,” he said.

But he said there are multiple hopeful changes right around the corner.

“We know just on the horizon, maybe as early as next week, late next week, we could have a potential a third vaccine: the Johnson & Johnson,” Shah said.

Plus, three more pharmacies will be added to the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which includes Walmart, Rite Aid, and Kroger (including Fred Meyer and QFC).

Safeway/Albertsons and Costco are already on that list, along with Health Mart Independent Pharmacies.

As for Hagen, she said that when her parents both get their second doses, it’s going to be reason for a big celebration.

“I’m in a Facebook group that asked the question, ‘What’s your biggest accomplishment of 2020?’ And my answer was helping my parents stay alive and to get them to this point — to be vaccinated,” Hagen said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that if delaying the second dose for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to outside the recommended time frame is unavoidable, it can be administered up to six weeks after the first dose. After that, you should still get a second dose and do not need to restart the regimen, but there have not been studies to test exactly how effective it would be.