As many as 100,000 Pennsylvanians will likely have to reschedule an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine due to an apparently supply chain error the state fessed up to on Wednesday.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam stumbled through explaining how as many as 200,000 people in Pennsylvania actually received their second dose of the Moderna vaccine before their first dose.
Later, she said that “there’s no difference in the medicine” between the first and second dose of the Moderna COVID vaccine.
Pennsylvania Admits to Massive COVID Vaccine Mistake
As best as we can determine, using Beam’s own words, mostly, there are 200,000 more requests for the second dose of the Moderna vaccine than was allocated to Pennsylvania this week. The reason being is patients who believed they were getting the first dose of the vaccine were getting the second dose instead.
And this has been going on since the beginning of the year, Beam said. It just all came to a head this week. (Note: this mistake does not impact the administration of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine.)
Though she later refused to assign blame for this colossal blunder, Beam did take the rare moment she wasn’t tripping over her own written statements or resorting to corporate buzzspeak to dunk on Operation Warp Speed, a program to get a vaccine approved and distributed from the Trump administration to state governments and other retail providers.
“It seems that the perfect storm of circumstances, an eagerness to get vaccine to residents, incredible pent up desire by the public to get this vaccine, dedicated vaccine providers trying to deliver what their customers are demanding, inconsistent vaccine allocations, confusion about Operation Warp Speed deliveries, and the need for more frequent and clear communication from the Department, all converged to bring us to the point which we are in today,” she said.
Catching Up to Meet the Demand – Tens of Thousands Will Have to Reschedule COVID Vaccine Appointments
Beam said the state was working with providers to essentially catch up to this week’s vaccine supply shortfall. It may take up to 3 weeks to get back on track.
Now, in order to make up for this week’s accrued shortfall in vaccine supply, many Pennsylvanians who’ve already received one dose or those who were expecting to get their first dose will have to wait a little while longer.
Vaccine providers will be contacting between 30,000 and 60,000 people to reschedule an appointment to receive their second dose. And they’ll be getting a hold of between 30,000 and 55,000 Pennsylvanians who had upcoming first dose appointments to reschedule those.
Beam finally addressed the potential health risks of people getting a second dose of the Moderna COVID vaccine and said there were none.
“Their experience is likely something that’s not even visible to them,” she said of those who inadvertently were given the wrong dose of the vaccine. “They should not start their vaccination process over again. There is no difference in the medicine in the first and second doses.”
Not Abundantly Clear
Wednesday’s press conference, which we’re sure was an uncomfortable experience for Beam as Acting Health Secretary, really lacked transparency.
She was only clear about one issue here: this didn’t affect Pfizer vaccines at all.
“Allow me to be abundantly clear,” Beam said. “The Pfizer vaccine is not affected.”
OK, great. But literally everyone was asking about the Moderna vaccine mix-up. Beam frustrated all but one member of the press who got to ask questions of her after she got through trying to explain what happened.
Each answer Beam gave only prompted more questions, but most of the questions only sought clarity on what she just said.
NBC10 (Philadelphia) reporter Deanna Durante started by asking the questions everyone probably had after hearing Beam not really say what happened in this COVID vaccine mistake.
She said, verbatim, ‘People watching this are now going to be confused and perhaps, in a panic hearing that second doses were given out as first doses.
- What do you say to them?
- How many doses are we talking about?
- What providers?
- And when you say it’s going to minimally impact first doses, what do you mean and how do you decide now, who doesn’t get that first dose while this is getting straightened out?
Beam replied, in full, “We have had abundant communication, not just at the legislative task force level but also with the provider community to reinforce that every action we are taking is to provide security in the second doses in Pennsylvania. That has been a tenet of our rollout that we have really held fast to and this really is indicative of our dedication to that second dose security.
“The provider communications have been clear as of yesterday afternoon. They will also become more frequent, as of today through the end of the week, so that the providers have that ability to communicate with us as they learn through today into tomorrow what their allocations will be and the impact to them.
“But if there was one message to be able to provide to individuals, it really is that this is all in an effort of second dose security.”
Durante said in response, very plainly, “But that didn’t answer any of the questions I just asked you.”
This went on with other reports from across Pennsylvania for about 20 minutes. And each time, they got these inflated answers from Beam filled with self-praise, soothing buzzspeak, and corporate jargon.
Burying the Lede – Opinion
At no time during today’s press conference did it feel like the people who mattered most in this:
- People who just learned they may have gotten the wrong vaccine dose
- Those with scheduled appointments to get their first or second dose
Instead, this embarrassing blunder was watered down with a lot of hot air that only masked the important news.
The Wolf administration has never let a perceived opportunity to dunk on the Trump administration over its COVID response – even to this day – especially in respect to communication with the public and execution of plans. But it’s clear they’re only doing that to hide their own shortcomings in this area.
You can watch Beam not answer questions here in today’s full press conference: