Polis said it’s unknown whether the decrease in Pfizer shipments is expected to continue because the federal government only gives a one-week notice of shipments.
The federal government has told Colorado it will receive thousands fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in a second shipment than originally expected, although the state anticipates the numbers contained in future shipments will be standardized, Colorado’s health department says.
The state had expected to receive 56,550 Pfizer doses on Friday after getting an initial 46,800 doses on Monday. The federal Operation Warp Speed officials informed the state that its next Pfizer allocation is expected to be 39,780 doses, a difference of 16,720, the Department of Health and Environment said in a statement.
“I really call upon the federal government to get the Pfizer vaccines out. Pfizer has said they are sitting in a warehouse awaiting shipping instructions. The federal government needs to give them those shipping instructions today,” Gov. Jared Polis said Friday.
Colorado health officials say the impact is lessened because each vaccine vial provides six doses rather than five as originally anticipated — allowing a 20% increase in vaccinations.
On Thursday, two senior Trump administration officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion over semantics. Pfizer said its production levels have not changed.
The officials 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.
Pfizer 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 committed to provide 6.4 million doses of its vaccine in the first week after approval. But Operation Warp Speed had already planned to distribute only 2.9 million of those doses right away. Another 2.9 million were to be held at Pfizer’s warehouse to guarantee that individuals vaccinated the first week would be able to get their second shot later to make protection fully effective. Finally, the government is holding an additional 500,000 doses as a reserve against unforeseen problems.
With Colorado’s second allocation, 25,740 vials will go to a pharmacy partnership to support vaccinations at skilled nursing facilities. The remaining 14,040 are being assigned to health care providers.
Federal officials say that moving forward, Colorado will get similar shipments each week. The state still expects to get 95,600 Moderna vaccine doses next week.
Polis said Friday there’s no concern whether second doses will be delivered on time.
As the pandemic stretches into the holiday season, Polis urged Colorado residents dealing with a mental health crisis to visit and reach out to the state’s resources. Mental health resources are available online or by calling the Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-8255.
More than 3,300 people in Colorado have died from the coronavirus and more than 300,000 confirmed cases have been reported. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.