Kansas, Missouri officials say supply continues to be major obstacle in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 7:09 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 07:00:43-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On both sides of the state line in Kansas and Missouri, COVID-19 vaccine demand continues to outpace supply.

"We do not have enough, and that is without question the source of anxiety," Dr. Lee Norman of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said during a University of Kansas Health System briefing on Tuesday.

Supply issues in the Kansas City metro were highlighted on Friday, when the Jackson County Health Department announced it had received 0 first doses last week.

A spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services explained the state was only receiving 76,000 vaccine doses per week, but that is now increasing to 88,000.

"Each week, we receive requests from hundreds of vaccinators for about three times more than what the state is allocated from our federal partners, and difficult decisions have to be made," DHSS communications director Lisa Cox said. Cox also said that they hope to see future increases in supply as more vaccines become authorized for use.

Norman said Kansas is encountering the same problem.

"We don't keep any of it at the state. The feds push it to us, and we allocate it right out to the vaccinating sites," Norman said, "But 45,500 doses a week ain't going to cut it."

Meanwhile, a dashboard for the state of Kansas shows just 55.5 percent of the vaccine doses distributed have actually been administered.

A spokesperson with KDHE pointed our questions about that percentage to Gov. Laura Kelly's office, but we did not receive a response before the time of publication.

Missouri's dashboard includes only the doses administered, not the ones distributed. A 41 Action News inquiry to Gov. Parson's Office regarding the percentage administered was not answered.

CDC data shows both Kansas and Missouri hovering around 55% when it comes to distributed doses administered. Those figures would land the states in the bottom 5 in the U.S.

However, both states have taken issue with the CDC data, pointing to a lag in reporting that impacts the numbers.

For example, Missouri is reporting more than 530,000 doses administered, while the CDC dashboard shows 466,000 doses.

The number of doses distributed is expected to increase in the coming weeks as the White House announced a 16% hike in the weekly vaccine supply sent to states.

The Biden administration is also giving states three weeks advance notice of how much they will receive.

"Having the additional time to plan will provide clarity and improve communication with local health departments and providers," Kelly said last week.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports Moderna is trying to raise the number of doses in its vials to speed up production. The company has found the bottling and labeling process is the biggest roadblock to distribution.

Previously, Pfizer discovered an extra dose could be squeezed out of its vials.

Yet, Norman says for supply to really ramp up, a new company has to enter the picture.

"I don't think what I'm hearing coming out of Operation Warp Speed, that the production capabilities are going to uptick," Norman said. "So I think it'll be by having a new entrant, whether it's Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca."

Johnson & Johnson could receive approval as early as this week. However, emergency approval for AstraZeneca is not expected until April.