KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The arctic blast that wreaked havoc across the Midwest in recent weeks also stalled about 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from being distributed to vaccination sites, according to the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
"Because of 72-hour, cold chain constraints, we don't want to ship doses to those locations and have them sitting at the site where they might expire," Andy Slavitt, a spokeswoman for the response team, said.
Widespread power outages threatened to spoil vaccine supplies, which must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures.
Vaccination sites across the Kansas City area were forced to cancel appointments on Friday and Saturday, including scheduled clinics at Cerner's headquarters in North Kansas City and the Eastern Kansas VA in Leavenworth, due to the delay in shipments.
"We see it has impacted giving vaccination doses, not just here in the metro, but in other places, especially in the Midwest as well," Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease expert at the University of Kansas Health System, said. "So, there has been a definite impact on vaccine supply, which we know is in short supply anyway."
One woman from the Kansas City area who works in the health care field reached out with questions about the delay in getting a second dose. She received a Moderna inoculation, but Kansas has run short of subsequent doses and she's been unable to get a booster.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, worries about how long the effectiveness of receiving only one dose lasts compared to those who are able to get the second dose within the recommended timeframe.
"The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance really allows for four days on either side of that scheduled dose date, but even if you have to delay that dose — even further say two, three, four weeks — go ahead and get your second dose," Hawkinson said. "It's OK if it's delayed. We'd prefer not, we would like you to get it in the specified amount of time. But if it is delayed, that's OK, still go get that second dose."
Mixing different vaccines, so far only vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer have received emergency use authorization in the U.S., is not recommended, according to Hawkinson, except in very rare circumstances.
"You can mix them in exceptional circumstances, but that should not be a common practice," he said.
Either way, doctors urge everyone to get two doses and not just rely on a single shot.
"With that second dose, you then are boosting that specific immune response, that adaptive immune response, so that's why it's so important to get that second dose," Hawkinson said.
As the weather warms up, the concern over shipments should thaw. To catch up after delays late this week, the White House will ask vaccination sites to extend hours of operation.
The White House confirmed on Friday the winter storm delayed shipments by about three days.
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment announced Friday that it plans to conduct all scheduled vaccinations for next week, but it has yet to take possession of the shipments yet.