SAYRE — Some medical providers have mistakenly used the booster shot of the Moderna vaccine as the first shot in some Pennsylvania residents and there is now a shortage of the second vaccine shot in the state.
The state announced that more than 100,000 people who have received the first shot of the Moderna vaccine will need to have their second appointment rescheduled.
Guthrie released a statement on Thursday stating it had not been told of any delays due to the statewide mistake when it comes to their vaccine allotment. However, some doses of the vaccine have been held up due to the weather.
“Guthrie understands the public’s concern after news that some Pennsylvania health care providers could experience a shortage of second doses of the Moderna vaccine,” Guthrie officials said in a press release. “Guthrie has not been informed of a delay in second doses of Moderna due to inventory issues at the state level, however, a few hundred second doses have been delayed due to weather.”
Guthrie said the second dose delay will “affect elderly patients who were vaccinated at our Wellsboro, Tunkhannock and Towanda offices in Pennsylvania.”
According to Guthrie, the delayed allocation represents less than 2% of the patients who have received a vaccination from a Guthrie location.
Those impacted will be called and re-scheduled for their second dose. If the patient is not contacted to reschedule, there is no need to contact Guthrie and they should report for their second dose as scheduled, according to the press release.
“Guthrie carefully manages its inventory of vaccine and places orders weekly for second doses to match the number of first doses that have been used. Like most health care providers, Guthrie gets an advance notification of only a few days regarding the arrival of doses. This is not unique to Pennsylvania and states across the nation report similar challenges with the vaccine pipeline,” the press release said.
Guthrie said it documents information on each patient it has vaccinated in the patient’s Epic medical record. This information includes the brand of the vaccine and the date it was administered. This ensures that the patient receives the second dose within a timeline that meets standards acceptable to the CDC.
Patients who received doses of the Pfizer vaccine are not affected.
Across the state, about 30,000 to 60,000 appointments for the COVID-19 booster shot will need to be pushed back by one or two weeks, said Alison Beam, the state’s acting health secretary. Delivery of another 30,000 to 55,000 initial doses of the Moderna vaccine will need to be delayed, as well, as officials scramble to get Pennsylvania back on track.
“People need to be able to know that they’re going to get their second-dose shots” in a timely fashion, even if their appointments need to be delayed, Beam said at a news conference.
Second doses of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are typically administered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance to allow the second dose of the shots to be delayed up to six weeks past the initial dose.
Pennsylvania has been holding second doses in reserve to ensure they will be available for residents who have gotten the initial shot, but Beam said a “structural issue” with vaccine deliveries emerged at the beginning of January and then festered for weeks.
Inconsistent vaccine supply, confusion about deliveries and a lack of clear communication between the Health Department and vaccine providers created a “perfect storm,” Beam said.
The Health Department said that while it’s still determining “root causes,” part of the problem stemmed from vaccine shipments that were not clearly labeled as first and second doses.
State health officials had told providers they didn’t need to sit on vaccine because second doses had been accounted for in the state’s distribution calculation.
“So, when providers heard department staff saying things like, ‘There is no need for vaccine providers to hold back any first doses,’ they may have felt pressure to use all of the vaccine they had on hand, when in reality, some of those doses where earmarked for second dose vaccinations,” said Health Department spokesperson Barry Ciccocioppo.
This week, vaccine providers requested 200,000 second doses of the Moderna vaccine, which approximates the total amount Pennsylvania was allocated by the federal government for first and second doses.
Beam refused to identify the providers that have been giving vaccine doses intended to be used as booster shots as first doses, declaring: “We’re not here to have blamed placed anywhere.” She promised the underlying issues that led to the shortage would be resolved by early March.