‘millions more doses sitting in Michigan warehouse but, as of now, Pfizer has not received shipment instructions’

Maine places third order for COVID-19 vaccines amid cut in state’s anticipated supply

Fri, 12/18/2020 - 8:30pm

    AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has placed a third order for COVID-19 vaccine with Operation Warp Speed and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Maine CDC ordered doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 8,775 people.

    This third order is approximately 40 percent lower than originally planned, after Operation Warp Speed informed Maine late Wednesday the maximum number of Pfizer vaccines available to the state for week two of distribution is 8,775 doses, rather than the 13,650 doses previously estimated, according to a news release.

    Operation Warp Speed did not provide Maine with an explanation for the reduced numbers, the release noted. 

    Pfizer, meanwhile, said Thursday the company has millions of doses sitting in a warehouse with no instructions from the federal government on where to distribute those doses. 

    “Pfizer is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed,” Pfizer said in a statement. “This week, we 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.” 

    Friday’s order complements the order for 24,200 Moderna vaccine doses placed on December 11 and the order for 12,675 doses of the Pfizer vaccine placed on December 4.

    The December 4 order arrived this week and the December 11 order is expected to arrive early next week. 

    Altogether, Maine expects to receive enough vaccine for 45,650 people in the first two weeks of the distribution.

    Since COVID-19 vaccination began in Maine on Tuesday, 2,264 frontline health care workers have received the first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

    Late Thursday, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee recommended emergency use authorization of the Moderna vaccine. The FDA is now reviewing the advisory committee's recommendation and is expected to issue its authorization within days.

    The last-minute change from Operation Warp Speed to week two of the Pfizer vaccine allocation means Maine will not receive enough of the required minimum of 10,725 doses to fully launch the retail pharmacy program to vaccinate residents and staff of all long-term care facilities in Maine, the release stated.

    “DHHS will still allocate 3,900 doses in week two to continue the skilled nursing facility part of this program, but, regrettably, must delay the program for assisted living facilities and other residential care facilities,” read the release.”

    Residents and staff of skilled nursing facilities will start to be vaccinated next week, while vaccination at the other long-term care facilities is now expected to begin after the originally planned start date of December 28.

    The retail pharmacy program is operated the U.S. CDC and retail pharmacies. Maine DHHS allocates doses to the program but does not play a direct role in distribution of those vaccines to long-term care facilities, per the release. 

    The remaining 4,875 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for week two will go to hospitals. This is an increase from the 2,295 doses originally planned, resulting from the change to the Pfizer allotment. Maine Medical Center, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, and MaineGeneral will receive these doses, with some redistribution across hospitals to ensure that critical workers across the state have access to the vaccine.

    “While recent developments on potential vaccine approval are promising, questions persist about the federal government's allocation plan and ongoing provision of these lifesaving vaccines,” said the release. “Maine's congressional delegation has asked the Federal government for additional information and greater transparency to help the state plan to vaccinate its residents and contain the pandemic as soon as possible.”