Beginning next week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is poised to significantly reduce the number of approved vaccine providers receiving shipments from roughly 1,700 to 300.
While the move was described as temporary, officials said it would end when vaccine is more widely available.
The number of providers receiving vaccine will fall from about 1,700 to 300. The health department did not say how many Lancaster County providers would be receiving vaccine.
“This is a temporary move intended to get as much vaccine out there as possible,” said Barry Ciccocioppo, a state Department of Health spokesman.
The 80% reduction in providers is part of a strategy that targets larger providers that can get the vaccine quickly into arms, Ciccocioppo said.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam last week announced that providers must administer 80% of their allotted vaccine within seven days of receipt, accept appointments online and by phone, and report vaccine levels within 24 hours of receiving and administering vaccine.
To date, about half of approved providers have received vaccine, according to health department data.
People scheduled to receive their second of two vaccine doses will not be affected by the temporary reduction. They will be able to receive their second doses at the provider where they received their first ones.
When COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, the 1,700 providers statewide will be critical to reaching Pennsylvanians with their trusted providers, Ciccocioppo said.
Not including Philadelphia, which is working directly with the federal government, providers have partially or fully inoculated 1.86 million Pennsylvanians, the state Department of Health said in a press release. The agency’s dashboard shows 51,729 people have been partially of fully inoculated in Lancaster County.
Weather wreaks havoc
Delayed shipments of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because of winter weather prompted Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital to cancel more than 1,500 COVID-19 vaccine appointments Thursday through Monday.
“As vaccine arrives, we will take an intentional approach to our scheduling, and will prioritize those who had their recent appointments canceled,” John Lines, a hospital spokesman, said in an email to LNP | LancasterOnline.
The hospital system has stopped scheduling future appointments, Lines said, because of the uncertainty of future supply.
State health officials on Friday announced widespread delays.
“Weather this week has been challenging in terms of getting vaccine delivered from manufacturers directly to vaccine providers in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Beam said in a press release.
State officials do not know the extent of the delays or when shipments could be received.
Chandra Zeikel, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said adverse weather in shipping hubs out of Louisville, Ky., and Memphis, Tenn., has impacted multiple states.
“Due to the severe winter weather currently impacting a large swath of the country, the U.S. government is projecting widespread delays in COVID-19 vaccine shipments and deliveries over the next few days,” Zeikel said in an email to LNP | LancasterOnline.
Pennsylvania has been allocated 183,575 doses of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 this week.
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were not shipped Monday, state officials said. A limited supply was shipped Tuesday and Wednesday. Moderna shipments did not go out Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
Supply had already been greatly impacted because some providers administered second doses as first doses, setting off a scramble that lead state health officials to extend the time frame for receiving the second dose. (Both doses are identical. The second acts as a booster to bolster the immune system.)
Health officials said they expect a substantial backlog moving forward.
While WellSpan Health has not yet had to reschedule appointments, UPMC Lititz is adjusting its vaccination appointments.
“We do continue to assess our supply of both Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine allocated to us by the Pa Department of Health," Ryan Coyle, a WellSpan Health spokesman, said in an email.