Why are states going to receive fewer Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines next week than they anticipated?

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — A growing number of states say they’re being warned to anticipate distribution problems with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The first shots were given Monday — and the company said while it distributed millions of doses as ordered by the federal government, it has millions more on ice while it awaits further instructions from the government.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says his state has been told to expect 20% less of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but has been given no explanation why.

“Pfizer said to me personally, ‘We want you to know- this is not us.’”

The list of states confirming expected shortages stands at over a dozen and growing:

  • Alabama says its second shipment will be 20,000 doses smaller than expected.
  • California estimates 160,000 fewer doses.
  • Connecticut says it’ll be down about 12,000.
  • Illinois and Indiana say they’ll be short as well, but don’t have specific numbers.
  • Massachusetts says it’s now expecting 20% fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Minnesota: 40%.
  • Oregon says it’s been told it will be short about 16,000 shots.
  • Rhode Island says it’s been told to expect about a third less than originally promised.
  • Officials in Texas tell NewsNation it’s getting 64,000 fewer Pfizer doses but expects to get more of the Moderna vaccine.
  • Utah says it’s getting nearly 7,000 fewer doses.

The Trump administration is downplaying the risks. A senior administration official tells the NewsNation Washington bureau the disconnect is over projections versus actual allocations and says Operation Warp Speed remains on track to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of January.

A similar statement was issued by a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services:

“There was some confusion between planning and training numbers provided in mid-November and actual official weekly allocations. We are working on clearing up any misunderstanding with the governors and jurisdictions.”

So far, the reaction from some states has been less than understanding.

Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association said, “We find the lack of communication and clarity on the reduced allocation of Pfizer vaccine from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services disappointing and frustrating.”

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee did his talking over Twitter:

“The CDC has informed us that WA’s vaccine allocation will be cut by 40 percent next week — and that all states are seeing similar cuts. This is disruptive and frustrating. We need accurate, predictable numbers to plan and ensure on-the-ground success. No explanation was given.”

But perhaps the most frustrated response came from the governor of the state from which much of the vaccine will originate.

“There are millions of Pfizer vaccines, many right here in Portage, Michigan, that are waiting to be shipped,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “And I still cannot get a straight answer out of the Trump administration about why Michigan, like many other states, is receiving a fraction of the vaccines that we are slated to receive.”

Pfizer appeared eager Friday to make it clear the issue was not theirs, saying in a statement that the drugmaker “…is not having any production issues with its COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed. 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.”