Vaccination Drive Stumbles as Snow Shuts Northeastern Sites

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The headlong rush to vaccinate U.S. residents bogged down this week, as snow blanketed the Northeast and appointments for life-saving shots were missed or canceled.

The U.S. administered 868,000 doses Monday, 33% less than the seven-day rolling average of 1.3 million that day. Northeast states showed steep declines in daily rates, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. In Maryland, for instance, daily doses were a whopping 65% less than the state’s daily seven-day rolling average on Sunday and 58% less on Monday.

Winter weather is another challenge to states’ efforts to vaccinate people as quickly as possible before more-contagious variants of Covid-19 take hold. The country has recorded more than a million vaccinations per day since President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20. Monday’s daily total was the lowest since then.

The heaviest storm of the year plodded across the East Coast, depositing snow in waist-high depths and turning streets into sled runs. Winter storm warnings were in place from West Virginia to Maine.

Vaccination Drive Stumbles as Snow Shuts Northeastern Sites

The snow began falling on New Jersey late Sunday, rising as high as 30 inches in Mendham by Monday evening, according to the National Weather Service. On Monday, the Garden State recorded fewer than half of its daily rolling vaccination average. All appointments at state-run megasites were postponed. Smaller sites remained open, but not everyone showed up.

Nancy Gerstner of Clark prayed that her 81-year-old mother wouldn’t get coronavirus after recovering from congestive heart failure in a rehabilitation facility. Gerstner spent hours scouring websites for a vaccine appointment and had one scheduled for Monday. She would have to collect her mother 40 miles south in Asbury Park, drive back north to the site in Edison and then back down to the shore.

She decided the weather was a greater danger than the virus.

“With it still being icy out, it’s even more of a concern, like just getting her in and out of the car and walking around,” said Gerstner, who tried unsuccessfully to reschedule the appointment and doesn’t know when her mother will get the shot.

Makeup Dates

“The numbers will take a significant hit over the short term,” said Mahen Gunaratna, director of communications for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “But everyone who had an appointment will get their vaccinations ultimately.”

The federal government has been blamed for shortages in the early weeks of the vaccine program, but doses were made available to states on schedule, Jeff Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said at a news briefing Tuesday.

“Given how hard the storm has hit, some locations and vaccination sites have had to close or limit their hours,” he said. “In terms of vaccine distribution to the states, that’s all worked as planned.”

New York City health department spokesman Pat Gallahue was unable to say how many appointments were rescheduled across the city. At one department site in Elmhurst, Queens, 1,000 appointments were affected, he said.

“Our sites are not running at full capacity due to supply shortages, and so appointments were limited on Monday and Tuesday,” said Gallahue.

In recent weeks, the city had been administering about 30,000 to 40,000 shots a day. But due to the snowstorm and the closing of vaccine sites, the stockpile of first doses had built up to around 104,000 as of Wednesday morning. The city has 334,000 second doses of vaccine on hand.

New York City has administered almost 840,000 shots since the vaccine drive began in December. After the vaccination pauses early this week, most sites have reopened and city health officials say they will reschedule the missed appointments in the coming days.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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