PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island will receive 3,900 fewer doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine than it had expected next week — an unexplained 36 percent reduction, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced Thursday.
The state Department of Health learned on Wednesday that the state’s allocation of the Pfizer vaccine for the week beginning Dec. 21 has been slashed from 10,725 doses to 6,825 doses, she said.
“We have heard accounts of similar reductions in other states, and no clear explanation has been provided by Operation Warp Speed,” Raimondo said. “We are calling on the Trump administration to honor its commitments and provide the full allocation to Rhode Island.”
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla shared a statement on Twitter saying that the company is not experiencing any production problems.
Pfizer is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed. The company’s statement can be found here: https://t.co/72sSOWrnil pic.twitter.com/1LoPYmSyWb— AlbertBourla (@AlbertBourla) December 17, 2020
The company also released a statement saying that they are awaiting shipping instructions for doses they have in their warehouses, and reiterating that they are working with the federal government to deliver the vaccine.
“Pfizer is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed,” the statement read. “This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them. We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses... We remain confident in our ability to deliver up to 50 million doses globally this year and up to 1.3 billion next year, and we look forward to continuing to work with the US Government to deliver our vaccine to the American people.”
Though officials from several other states — including Michigan, Washington, Illinois, Iowa, and Maryland — reported being told to expect fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services denied that allocations had changed, NBC News reported.
“Reports that jurisdictions’ allocations are being reduced are incorrect,” an HHS spokesperson said in a statement. “As was done with the initial shipments of Pfizer vaccine, jurisdictions will receive vaccine at different sites over several days.”
Meanwhile, Rhode Island will continuing distributing the vaccine to front-line healthcare workers, and officials will evaluate the impact of the reduction on its vaccine plans.
The state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Subcommittee is scheduled to meet at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Raimondo is scheduled to provide her weekly update on the coronavirus at 1 p.m. Friday, and Dr. Philip A. Chan, an infectious disease doctor with the state Department of Health, will provide a detailed vaccine update.
On Monday, amid much fanfare, Dr. Christian Arbelaez became the first person in Rhode Island to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Lifespan – which runs Rhode Island, Hasbro Children’s, The Miriam, Bradley, and Newport hospitals – received 1,950 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine on Monday morning, several hours ahead of schedule. Shortly after Lifespan received the shipment, the Rhode Island COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee voted to recommend that hospitals begin vaccinating front-line hospital workers.
Hospital staff who have direct contact with COVID-positive patients or COVID-positive infectious fluids or materials are first in line for the vaccine, though some health experts have suggested that densely populated infection hotspots, like Central Falls, R.I., should be prioritized.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.