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Mistakes mean Pennsylvania faces shortage of Moderna shots

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Pennsylvania is facing a temporary shortage of booster shots of the Moderna vaccine because providers inadvertently used them as first doses, setting back the state’s already stumbling vaccine rollout.

The error could mean more than 100,000 people will need appointments rescheduled, state health officials said Wednesday.

About 30,000 to 60,000 appointments for the COVID-19 booster shot will need to be pushed back by one or two weeks, said Alison Beam, the state’s acting health secretary. Delivery of another 30,000 to 55,000 initial doses of the Moderna vaccine will need to be delayed, as well, as officials scramble to get Pennsylvania back on track.

The second-dose shortage does not affect the Pfizer vaccine.

“People need to be able to know that they’re going to get their second-dose shots” in a timely fashion, even if their appointments need to be delayed, Beam said at a news conference.

Second doses of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are typically administered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance to allow the second dose of the shots to be delayed up to six weeks past the initial dose.

Pennsylvania has been holding second doses in reserve to ensure they will be available for residents who have gotten the initial shot, but Beam said a “structural issue” with vaccine deliveries emerged at the beginning of January and then festered for weeks.

Inconsistent vaccine supply, confusion about deliveries and a lack of clear communication between the Health Department and vaccine providers created a “perfect storm,” Beam said.

This week, vaccine providers requested 200,000 second doses of the Moderna vaccine, which approximates the total amount Pennsylvania was allocated by the federal government for first and second doses.

Beam refused to identify the providers that have been giving vaccine doses intended to be used as booster shots as first doses, declaring: “We’re not here to have blamed placed anywhere.” She promised the underlying issues that led to the shortage would be resolved by early March.

The booster shortage added to Pennsylvania’s vaccine woes.

Though 1.3 million residents have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, the state ranks near the bottom nationally in how efficiently it is vaccinating its population. It is 46th among the states in the number of shots administered per 100,000 people, and 47th by percentage of allocated doses that have been given, according to the latest CDC data.

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