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Vaccine shipments to Mass. delayed; Baker ponders sending National Guard south to fetch supplies

Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday that the state may send the National Guard to Kentucky and Tennessee to pick up COVID-19 vaccines destined for Massachusetts.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/file

As severe cold, snow, and ice grip much of the country, federal officials have informed the Baker administration that this week’s shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses earmarked for Massachusetts has been delayed and won’t arrive until Monday, state officials said Thursday.

Governor Charlie Baker also said that he’d consider activating the National Guard to travel to the storm-battered South to pick up shipments meant for Massachusetts.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the COVID-19 Command Center said Baker had reached out to the US government to “offer any assistance” the state could provide. The administration is also “imploring the federal government to rectify the delay immediately.”


As of late Thursday night, state officials said, the Guard had not been deployed.

They are working with vaccine providers to assess how shipping delays may affect appointments already scheduled at vaccination clinics. “All residents should go to their scheduled appointments unless they are contacted by the provider they booked with” a statement said.

Federal authorities have indicated the cause of the delay is staffing shortages at vaccine manufacturing facilities, according to state officials, who added that the state’s command center was told Wednesday night that there’d be a shipping delay due to weather conditions.

Massachusetts, where light snow was expected to fall from Thursday into Friday, is one of several states experiencing a disruption in vaccine supplies due to storms around the country.

Elsewhere, a large swath of the nation, from Deep South states to southern Nevada, snowy, slippery weather has either led to the closing of vaccination sites or held up shipments, with delays expected to continue for days, according to the Associated Press.

Early Thursday, Baker told members of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce he was considering seeking federal authority to send the National Guard south to retrieve vaccine.

“We may have some real issues with supply delivery this week,” Baker said in remarks to the remote gathering. “We have been told it would be a few days late, based on some of the issues around weather in other parts of the country. But we got told last night that we might see a significant delay in our next” shipment.


Baker’s comments came as the state was continuing to grapple with the fallout Thursday from an early morning crash of the Vaxfinder website for booking appointments to get shots.

“We’re currently talking to the National Guard about, and they will do this, about going down to Kentucky and Tennessee, which is where this stuff is currently located, and bringing it back,” Baker said. “And what we just need to do is make sure that the federal government is going to let the National Guard do this for us.”

Getting supplies to Massachusetts is vitally important, Baker added in his earlier remarks.

“We can’t afford to go what will be almost a week without getting any new doses from the feds and continue to maintain the appointment schedules that people here expect and anticipate we’ll be able to maintain,” he said.

Massachusetts has set a goal of vaccinating more than 4 million adults to help end the pandemic. State officials reported Thursday that 1,267,262, vaccinations have been administered.

In his remarks, Baker said more vaccines are needed in the national pipeline. Governors are eager to see if a vaccination developed by Johnson & Johnson receives federal approval, perhaps as early as next week, he said.


“The process of getting 4½ million people, 5 million people vaccinated at 120,000 first doses a week — I mean, you folks can all do the math. That will take a very long time, which is one of the reasons why so many governors are really anxious to see what happens with the J&J vaccination, which is currently in front of the FDA and I think is supposed to be reviewed and decided on next week.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.

Travis Andersen can be reached at