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Winter Weather Delaying Some Vaccine Shipments To Florida

Vial of COVID-19 vaccine
Joel Saget
AFP via Getty Images
Most people with existing vaccination appointments need not panic, but others anxious to schedule one may have to wait now.

The disruption is forcing some counties and pharmacies to reschedule appointments, and it's delaying others from booking future vaccinations.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. with news of postponed appointments in Manatee County.

Winter storms affecting large parts of the U.S. are delaying the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Moderna vaccines in parts of Florida and disrupting distribution efforts.

Manatee County announced on Thursday morning that it was postponing 5,100 appointments scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Bennett Park due to delayed deliveries.

The new appointment dates will be moved to next Thursday and Friday, Feb. 25 - 26. The county said it will send automated notifications to those scheduled to let them know about the change.

Publix cited weather issues preventing government delivery of COVID-19 vaccine as the reason it canceled a scheduling event set for Wednesday. It would have allowed Floridians to sign up for appointments at the nearly 600 pharmacy locations offering the vaccine.

“We know how important administering this vaccine is, so we deeply regret the need to cancel Wednesday’s scheduling event,” Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous said in a statement. “Once additional vaccine is received, we will announce the next opportunity for vaccine appointment scheduling.”

The company said existing appointments for Wednesday and Thursday are not affected.

Palm Beach County said vaccine shipments won’t arrive on time there either. While second doses aren’t affected, the county said it won’t be able to administer first shots of the vaccine until shipments resume.

Polk County is experiencing delays as well. The county is waiting on 7,000 first-dose vaccines and 5,500 second dose vaccines in an upcoming shipment.

Health officials are instructing individuals who registered through Polk's vaccine portal and scheduled appointments this week to monitor their phones or email in case their vaccine must be rescheduled.

Those with affected appointments will be contacted by the health department or one of the area health systems partnering on vaccinations and if they don’t hear from anyone they should plan to arrive at their appointment as planned.

"These delays are unfortunate but unavoidable," said Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County. "We ask for patience from those who are currently scheduled and those waiting to be scheduled as we work expeditiously to reschedule and rearrange appointments."

Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties said they have ample vaccine supply to carry out existing appointments.

“In Pinellas what we do is we work a week ahead of time, so the appointments that we have that are made have vaccines that are accounted for,” said Maggie Hall, spokesperson for the health department in Pinellas.

Hall said the Florida Division of Emergency Management notified all county health departments that severe weather could affect deliveries. She said if future shipments are delayed the county will hold off scheduling new appointments and notify the public.

Sarasota health officials had a similar message on Tuesday.

“We do have vaccines for every appointment that we have scheduled, so if you received a vaccine appointment for today or tomorrow please be sure to come receive that vaccine,” said Steve Huard, spokesperson for the health department in Sarasota.

The county also announced it has supplies for 1,000 second dose vaccines for a clinic on Thursday at Sarasota Square Mall and would be notifying eligible individuals. It urged those ready for a second dose who don't receive a notification not to go to the mall.

Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted this afternoon that the division of emergency management and health department “are providing regular updates to our partners to ensure the vaccine is distributed as efficiently as possible as it arrives.”

In all, 208,000 first and second doses of Moderna vaccine have been delayed, according to the state’s top emergency management official.

“This delay could go on for several more days, we don’t have an answer on when it’s going to arrive,” Division of Emergency Management Director Jarod Moskowitz told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday afternoon.

Moskowitz said people whose appointments are canceled because of the delivery delay will be given priority when the vaccine doses arrive.

He said a delivery of 132,000 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine delivery has not been affected by the arctic blast and will arrive this week as planned.

Christine Sexton with the News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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