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Vaccine Confusion

In a hastily called press conference that left reporters exasperated with more questions than answers, Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said the Department of Health discovered some providers inadvertently administered the Moderna vaccine shipped to them intended as second doses, as first doses, which now will require tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians to delay getting their second dose and creates possible effects on the distribution of first doses for some time.

“In the short term, we are faced with second dose Moderna vaccine requests far exceeding the Moderna vaccine allocated to the state this week,” Beam said.

Beam said the problem was noticed when about 200,000 second Moderna doses were requested, which is roughly the state’s entire weekly Moderna allocation. The problem likely stems back about a month, according to Beam.

Beam said that the impacts will likely total 30,000-60,000 second dose appointments and 30,000-55,000 first doses that will not be delivered this week.

Beam would not specify which providers erred in their distribution, saying she did not want put blame on anyone, but rather find solutions. She added that the department will work with providers, “(T)o help them better understand the delivery of first and second dose vaccines and by extending the time between doses, while remaining within CDC guidelines, we can minimize any disruption to first dose vaccinations.”

Beam said the department, working with a newly created joint vaccine task force, has a “clear path forward” that will still ensure those getting second doses fall within the CDC guidelines that set the minimum time between doses at 21 and 28 days and a maximum time at 42 days.

But it was not made clear to the limited reporters who were able to ask questions what the impact will be over the next few weeks for a state that has already struggled with distributing the limited supply that is out there.

Pennsylvania has largely been well below national averages when it comes to the percent of the population which has received their first or second dose since distribution began in December.

Reporters, sometimes loudly, pressed Beam for specific numbers and potential implications, while Beeam struggled to provide clarity to the reporter’s satisfaction and provide transparency and accountability they were seeking. The virtual press conference, called about 90 minutes before it began at 11:30 a.m., was swiftly ended at Noon after just a few questioners got their inquires in.

In a later press call with reporters, Department of Health Press Secretary Barry Ciccocioppo said it will take a total of three weeks, including this week, to work the kinks that were created by the error and return to normal distribution levels for first and second doses.

This reporter asked Ciccocioppo what this means for the already are losing or have lost faith in the beleaguered Department of Health, he said the fact that the department realized the issue and quickly solved it should show faith that the department can handle the continued efforts to get Pennsylvanians vaccinated.

Gov. Tom Wolf, at an unrelated press conference later in the day, said he is confident the state has not solved all the problems but that he has not lost faith in the department.

“There will be continued problems that we will continue to look for ways and find ways to make the system work even better,” Wolf said.

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