Bad weather, lack of supplies force Evangelical, Geisinger to cancel vaccine clinics

·3 min read

Feb. 20—Deliveries delayed by hazardous winter weather and mistakes made with the commonwealth's accounting of first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine left Evangelical Community Hospital without any supplies of the Moderna vaccine.

The lack of doses for one of only two available vaccine brands, Pfizer-BioNTech being the second, forced Evangelical to cancel 300 appointments this week, according to Deanna Hollenbach, public relations and communications manager. Appointment-holders were contacted individually by the hospital for rescheduling.

"Currently, Evangelical Community Hospital has no doses of the Moderna vaccine on-site. A shipment is pending for next week, which means the state has allocated doses for the hospital, but an exact date of arrival is not known. When the doses do arrive, they will be used as second doses," Hollenbach said.

Evangelical and Geisinger continue to be unable to schedule new appointments for first doses of either vaccine due to lack of supplies.

As many as 115,000 people will have vaccine appointments delayed across Pennsylvania after the Department of Health discovered too many doses intended to serve as second shots were mistakenly used as first shots.

Geisinger on Friday announced that it had canceled all first- and second-dose appointments at its vaccine clinic in Danville on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It canceled appointments at three other clinics outside the Valley and said appointment-holders would be contacted individually and should find updated information in their MyGeisinger accounts in the coming days.

Evangelical's supplies of the Pfizer vaccine remain adequate and the hospital will be able to meet all first and second doses scheduled through Feb. 26, according to Brian Wolfe, vice president of physician and clinic practices.

Both vaccine brands require two doses. One cannot be substituted for the other. When the vaccines were authorized under emergency by the federal government, the Pfizer brand shots were to be spaced 21 days apart while Moderna shots were to be spaced by 28 days.

However, updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the second dose of either vaccine be administered up to 42 days after the initial dose. Wolfe pointed out that it's not yet known how delays beyond that 42-day window would impact the efficacy of either vaccine. Clinical trials found that efficacy is 95 percent for Pfizer and 94 percent for Moderna within the recommended window.

"According to the CDC, even if the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series. However, it is unknown how extending beyond these intervals impacts the vaccines' efficacy. We will continue to recommend and schedule second doses within these approved intervals," Joseph Stender III, media relations specialist, Geisinger, said.

"We are confident we can continue administering the booster doses of Moderna in the appropriate timeframe as long as the state makes good on its revised delivery schedule," Wolfe said.

The Department of Health on Friday acknowledged delivery delays due to the weather, though didn't further provide information related to the mixup of first- and second-dose allocations.

According to the Health Department, winter weather delayed shipments of the Moderna vaccine from the distributor to providers on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Pfizer vaccines were not shipped on Monday but limited amounts were shipped on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the department said.

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.

"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," Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said.

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