Winter storm and power outages upend US Covid vaccination as thousands of doses left in peril

Weather conditions hampering country’s ability to continue vaccinating residents

James Crump
Tuesday 16 February 2021 14:32
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2.5 million without power in Texas as snow and ice blanket southern Plains

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A historic winter storm across the US is disrupting the country’s coronavirus vaccination rollout, as clinics have been forced to close and vaccine deliveries have been stalled.

The storm, which has caused temperatures to nosedive as far south as San Antonio, Texas, has caused power outages across the US, grounded flights and created dangerous conditions on roads.

The worst affected areas have been southern states, with vaccine appointments in Kentucky, Texas and Alabama cancelled or rescheduled as officials are braced for further snowfall.

Read our latest on the winter storm here.

The adverse weather conditions have also caused issues with vaccine appointments in other parts of the US, as Washington State is preparing to dial back vaccination plans, and New Hampshire has rescheduled appointments.

Missouri governor Mike Parson has revealed that their shipments of Covid-19 doses will be affected, as distribution will be halted for the rest of the week.

“Missouri is experiencing severe winter weather that makes driving dangerous and threatens the health and safety of anyone exposed to the cold,” the governor said in a statement on Monday about the delays.

Power outages caused by the storm, which are currently affecting more than 4 million households in Texas and more than 100,000 in Kentucky and West Virginia, have also created vaccination delays in southern states.

Several of those states have lagged behind the rest of the US in the average pace of coronavirus vaccinations, and the delays are expected to get worse as the storm continues throughout the week, according to The New York Times.

Amid the storm and power outages on Monday, health officials in Harris County, Texas, rushed to administer 5,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines before they expired.

Health officials in the county told ABC News that its facility that houses Moderna vaccine doses lost power on Monday, as the back-up generator also failed.

Instead of losing all of the around 8,000 doses, Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo said that officials quickly put in place a plan to “expedite” vaccinations to areas that did not involve much travel.

“We got to work under the mission to avoid losing those vaccines with the loss of power, and we quickly put together a plan to allocate and to salvage them,” Ms Hidalgo added.

Officials managed to distribute 5,410 doses that were affected on Monday, with 3,000 going to The Harris County Jail, 1,000 going to the Methodist Hospital and 810 to Rice University.

Around 3,000 remaining doses were also saved later in the day, as Moderna informed officials that its new guidance meant that they could refrigerate the doses for use later.

“Roughly half...of the vaccines have been distributed, and the rest have been put back in storage for distribution per our normal process,” the judge said.

Other states across the US, including California, are also struggling with a lack of vaccine supplies, despite not experiencing any weather troubles.

Speaking about supply issues on Sunday, vice president Kamala Harris told Axios on HBO that “in many ways, we are starting from scratch on something that’s been raging for almost an entire year.”

She referenced the work done by the previous Trump administration, adding: “There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations, we were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try and figure it out.”

The US has administered around 52 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far. Of that figure, around 13 million have received both doses and are fully vaccinated.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 27.6 million people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached 486,332.

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