As an explosion of COVID-19 cases strains California’s intensive care units to the breaking point, the state learned it will receive 160,000 fewer vaccine doses than officials had anticipated next week — a roughly 40% reduction.
California hospitals began vaccinations this week from the first Pfizer shipment of 327,000 doses, and the state was expecting 393,000 more to arrive next week.
Instead, officials have been told they will receive about 233,000 doses next week, said Erin Mellon, a spokeswoman for Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The state was expecting more than 2 million doses to be delivered by the end of year, based on the shipments California has already received and projections of more from Pfizer and Moderna.
“Right now, we know that we’ll be below that estimate because of the latest change communicated by the CDC,” Mellon said. “There may be additional changes from the federal government in projected shipments through the end of the year.”
In Washington, D.C., two senior Trump administration officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal planning said states will receive their full allocations, but misunderstandings about vaccine supply and changes to the delivery schedule may be creating confusion.
One official said the initial numbers of available doses that were provided to states were projections based on information from the manufacturers, not fixed allocations. Some state officials may have misunderstood that, the official said.
The two officials also said that changes the federal government made to the delivery schedule, at the request of governors, may be contributing to a mistaken impression that fewer doses are coming.
The key change involves spacing out delivery of states’ weekly allocations over several days to make distribution more manageable.
“They will get their weekly allocation, it just won’t come to them on one day,” one official said.
Pfizer made it clear that as far as production goes, nothing has changed.
“Pfizer has not had any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed,” spokesman Eamonn Nolan said in an email. “We are continuing to dispatch our orders to the locations specified by the U.S. government."
The company said in a written statement that this week it “successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them. We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”
The senior administration officials said Pfizer’s statement about doses awaiting shipping instructions, while technically accurate, conveniently omits the explanation: It was planned that way.
California is also expecting 672,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday.