Devastating winter storms sweeping the US have injected confusion and frustration into the nation’s Covid-19 vaccination drive, snarling deliveries and forcing the cancellation of thousands of shots around the country.
Across a large swath of the US, including deep south states such as Georgia and Alabama, the snowy, slippery weather either led to the closing of vaccination sites outright or held up the necessary shipments, with delays expected to continue for days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that states would face serious delays in receiving doses, with dangerous road conditions and power outages hampering delivery. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said doses expected this week were delayed by weather elsewhere in the country, forcing the city to hold off making 30,000 to 35,000 vaccination appointments.
One public health expert said the delays were unacceptable.
“Having vaccine centers take snow days is just going to back things up more than they already are,” said Dr Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The virus doesn’t take snow days.”
Jo Dohogne of Bartlett, Tennessee, said she had scheduled two appointments this week to receive her second dose of the Moderna vaccine, but both had been canceled because of poor weather.
Dohogne, 75, who has multiple sclerosis, said she felt left in the lurch as the six-week mark for her second dose approached following her first vaccination on 14 January.
“I’m just stressed; it’s just like this is taking up my entire life,” Dohogne said.
The White House Covid-19 coordinator, Jeff Zients, said that in places where vaccination venues have been closed, such as Texas, the government is encouraging sites to increase their hours once they are open.
“We want to make sure that as we’ve lost some time in some states for people to get needles in arms, that our partners do all they can to make up that lost ground,” he said.
In southern Nevada, officials reported that the winter storms had delayed a shipment of Moderna vaccines scheduled to be administered as second doses this week.
Troublingly, the delays come as efforts to immunize more people are ramping up. The US is vaccinating an average of 1.7 million Americans per day against Covid-19, up from under 1 million a month ago. New figures from the White House show a steady increase in the pace of vaccinations over Joe Biden’s first month in office.
Biden is on track to exceed his goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, but the pace must pick up even further to meet his plans to vaccinate nearly all adults by the end of the summer.
In the face of frustrating delays, some people showed remarkable persistence. Fran Goldman, 90, of Seattle, told the Seattle Times she walked 6 miles round-trip in the snow to get her vaccine.
Goldman said that after much effort, she had finally secured a slot for Sunday morning, but on Friday and Saturday a strong storm moved through, filling streets with snowdrifts.
Goldman dressed in fleece trousers and threw a few warm layers over a short-sleeve shirt so that the nurse could get to her arm easily.
“It was not easy going. It was challenging,” she said. She made it to her appointment, just five minutes late.