COVID-19 vaccinations Lancaster EMS

Carli Moua, community paramedic program supervisor at Lancaster EMS, administers the first round of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Lancaster EMS headquarters 1829 Lincoln Hwy. East in East Lampter Township Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. The vaccine was administered to those in Phase 1A Monday.

After last week’s admission that providers using Moderna vaccine intended for second doses had administered it as first doses, the Pennsylvania Department of Health will soon implement an improved tracking system, an official told LNP | LancasterOnline on Tuesday.

State health officials do not yet know the scope of the problem, which only affected providers receiving Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was not impacted.

Officials had relied on local vaccine providers to track and report their shipments, Barry Ciccocioppo, a health department spokesman said.

Untangling what went wrong has been a challenge, as the health department doesn’t exactly know.

“The focus is getting the vaccine out and ensuring everyone who got the first vaccine can go back to their same provider,” Ciccocioppo said.

A deep dive into the error will be explored at a later date, Ciccocioppo said.

To further address the snafu, state officials are working with manufacturers to create packaging that identifies shipments as first or second doses that will also include state instructions, Ciccocioppo said.

Currently, shipments — which come directly from the manufacturer to vaccine providers — do not identify how much vaccine is intended for first or second doses.

With last week’s snowstorm having disrupted most of the state’s deliveries, vaccine providers can expect to receive the equivalent of two weeks of allocations this week, Ciccocioppo said.

Here’s what we know:

How and when was the mistake caught?

Officials discovered the error around the second week of February, after requests for second doses of Moderna nearly exceeded the state’s entire allotment.

Why was the error limited to the Moderna vaccine?

State officials do not yet know. With less stringent storage requirements, though, Moderna is the preferred vaccine across the state, according to weekly allocation numbers.

How many Pennsylvanians were impacted?

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam estimated that roughly 100,000 Pennsylvanians were affected by the blunder, an amount nearly equal to the state’s entire weekly allotment.

How are local providers adjusting?

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital rescheduled more than 1,500 appointments, and WellSpan Health, which operates WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, switched first-dose Moderna patients to the Pfizer brand, said Ryan Coyle, a company spokesman.

How is the error being corrected?

The state health department has extended the time between the first and second dose from 28 to 42 days, which complies with updated federal guidelines. Before the error was discovered, health officials verbally provided information about first and second dose amounts to vaccine providers. Moving forward, this information will come included in packaging that identifies the dose type.

Has there been a change in Pennsylvania strategy following concerns over whether vaccine providers were hoarding doses because of the unpredictable vaccine supply?

No, the strategy has remained unchanged. Providers do not have to set aside any vaccine from the shipments they receive for future vaccinations. "We have purposefully included your second dose into our allocation strategy,” said Maggi Barton, a state health department spokeswoman said in an email to LNP | LancasterOnline.

How do the first and second doses differ?

The doses are identical. The second dose acts as a booster to bolster the immune response.

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