Weather delays vaccine shipments, forcing Chatham providers to halt, reschedule vaccinations

Posted 2/19/21

Severe weather across the country has forced several Chatham vaccine providers to reschedule vaccinations and may slow down vaccine appointments next week.

The Chatham County Public Health …

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Weather delays vaccine shipments, forcing Chatham providers to halt, reschedule vaccinations

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Severe weather across the country has forced Chatham vaccine providers to pause or reschedule vaccination appointments originally planned for early next week.

The Chatham County Public Health Department had expected to receive 400 doses of Moderna vaccine earlier this week, said CCPHD’s director, Mike Zelek, but thanks to icy weather, they haven’t yet arrived — and no one yet knows when they will come.

“We were looking to schedule those appointments early next week, along with some second doses that we had scheduled, and without the vaccine, we’re unable to schedule those appointments,” he said. “Of course, you can’t administer vaccinations without the vaccine. So that is certainly frustrating, because we’re eager to get our community vaccinated against COVID.”

On Thursday, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services announced that severe weather across the country had delayed some vaccine shipments this week, including both first and second doses. At that point, the state’s weekly allocation of Moderna vaccine hadn’t yet been shipped while “only a limited number of Pfizer vaccines” had.

According to the press release, weather has caused a backlog of orders for both vaccines.

“These delays may cause vaccination appointments to be postponed or rescheduled,” the release said. “As there is not enough vaccine in the state to shift or transfer supply in order to cover the delayed vaccine doses, DHHS is advising providers to assess current appointments and notify recipients accordingly based on on-hand supplies.”

Until the doses arrive, Zelek said the CCPHD will not be scheduling vaccination appointments.

Typically, the CCPHD’s allotted doses arrive on Tuesdays, and to date, Zelek said the CCPHD has only scheduled appointments after receiving its allotted doses. That’s why they can’t schedule appointments more than a week in advance, he added.

After receiving doses, the CCPHD typically begins scheduling appointments on Wednesdays or Fridays. Staff schedule most vaccination appointments for Mondays and Fridays, Zelek said, to give the CCPHD “a little cushion” in case shipment delays like this happen.

“So the silver lining in this as we hadn’t yet scheduled first-dose appointments, so we didn’t have any appointments to cancel,” he said. “So that is good, but obviously the frustration is that we don’t have doses to be able to schedule those first doses yet.”

But all 400 second-dose vaccinations scheduled for Monday will still go on as planned since the CCPHD already received that shipment.

“We’ve been waiting on pins and needles for updates as to when (the shipment is) coming to see when we can move forward,” Zelek said Thursday. “... We’re hoping the vaccine arrives soon.”

On Thursday, inclement weather prompted Piedmont Health Services to cancel all of its COVID-19 vaccination appointments and instead reschedule them for Friday and Monday. Piedmont has three Chatham-based clinics: the Siler City Community Health Center, the Moncure Community Health Center and the Piedmont Health SeniorCare (PACE) in Pittsboro.

PHS had also expected to vaccinate over 500 people Saturday in Alamance County, but the shipment delays forced them to push the event back to next Saturday, Feb. 27, according to spokesperson Debra Markley.

“We thought we were getting 1,500 this week (across all locations),” she said. “We got none, so that’s why we’re having to cancel the Alamance event until next week. The vaccines still aren’t here.”

She said they don’t yet know whether PHS will be able to schedule vaccinations for eligible residents next week.

Chatham Hospital’s vaccination clinic will also close Monday and Tuesday thanks to weather delays in vaccine shipments. Without the delays, UNC Health spokesperson Alan Wolf estimated that clinic staff would have vaccinated about 200 each day.

“They are contacting all the patients that had appointments for those days and they’re rescheduling them for later next week,” he said, adding that the shipments are expected to arrive by Tuesday.

Unless “something crazy happens,” he said staff don’t anticipate rescheduling any more vaccinations after Tuesday.

Severe weather has also delayed Walgreens' vaccination efforts.

Walgreens recently began administering COVID-19 vaccinations at several of its Chatham locations last week. In early February, North Carolina announced Walgreens as its choice to participate in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, a program meant to speed up vaccinations by allotting vaccine doses to select pharmacies across the country.

As a part of the program, Walgreens receives vaccine doses directly from the federal government. But this week, thanks to manufacturing and weather delays, shipments will arrive later than expected, according to Walgreens corporate spokesperson, Campbell O’Connor

"We are taking necessary measures to ensure minimal disruption to our patients," he added. "In this fluid situation during which vaccine inventory remains limited, our aim is to ensure eligible patients are able to receive vaccinations as soon as possible."

Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at victoria@chathamnr.com.

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