White House expects to finish shipping millions of Covid vaccines this week delayed by winter storm

Pfizer employees handle containers of vaccine as U.S. President Joe Biden tours a Pfizer manufacturing plant producing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S., February 19, 2021.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

WASHINGTON – The White House said Sunday that it expects to catch up this week on coronavirus vaccine distribution after a sweeping winter storm disrupted the administration’s colossal logistics.

“We knew we can’t control mother nature, no one can, but we can certainly contingency plan. What our team has been doing and preparing to do is engage with and work with the Postal Service, work with FedEx and others to get those doses out to vaccination centers and to communities as quickly as they can handle them,” explained White House press secretary Jen Psaki on ABC’s “This Week” program.

“We expect to rapidly catch up this week, fill that backlog, make sure they’re out to communities and also meet our deadlines and our timelines of the doses that are due to go out this upcoming week,” Psaki said.

Psaki added that the administration managed to deliver 2 million of the 6 million vaccines that were delayed.

Over the weekend, President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas as millions across the “Lone Star State” deal with the fallout of severe winter storms. Psaki said that the president plans to visit Texas soon.

“He is also very mindful of the fact that it’s not a light footprint for a president to travel to a disaster area. He does not want to take away resources or attention. And we’re going to do that at an appropriate time in coordination with people on the ground,” Psaki said, adding “could be as soon as this week.”

Pike Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm on February 16, 2021 in Fort Worth, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather and power outages to Texas as storms have swept across 26 states with a mix of freezing temperatures and precipitation.

Ron Jenkins | Getty Images

Last week,  Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for Covid response, told reporters that the massive winter storm triggered road closures, power outages as well as staffing shortages at key shipping hubs.

“As weather conditions improve, we are already looking to clear this backlog,” Slavitt said on Friday, adding that the Covid-19 vaccines were “sitting safe and sound in our factories and hubs ready to be shipped.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, concurred with Psaki in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“The number was 6 million doses got delayed. We’ve gotten two million out, and we project that by the middle of the week, we will have caught up,” Fauci said.

“Obviously, it is a setback because you’d like to see the steady flow of vaccine getting out there to get into people’s arms. But we can play pretty good catch-up,” he added.

More than 61 million doses of the vaccine have been administered as of Saturday, according to the CDC. More than 42 million people have received their first dose while more than 17 million people have been fully vaccinated with the two-dose regimen.

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