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Winter storms delay COVID-19 vaccine shipments to New York. What to know


David Robinson   | New York State Team
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Winter storms wreaking havoc across much of the U.S. have delayed nearly all week 10 deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to New York and authorities are working to limit the number of vaccinations being postponed, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The announcement came after many local health departments this week canceled some vaccinations due to local and national weather issues and resulting shipping delays, including Monroe and Rockland counties.

The federal shipping delays impacted all vaccine doses allocated for delivery between Feb. 12 and Feb. 21. 

"Every dose that should have shipped on Monday was held back, and only a limited number of Pfizer vaccines left shipping facilities on Tuesday and Wednesday," Cuomo said in a statement Thursday evening.

"This delay will undoubtedly pose a logistical challenge for New York — but as we have shown over the last 350-plus days, we are New York tough, and we are up to the challenge," he added.

By Friday evening, a clearer picture emerged: Pfizer vaccine shipments that should have already made New York are scheduled to arrive by Monday, with additional shipments expected Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Cuomo.

Moderna shipments are expected to begin arriving in the middle of next week and continue through Thursday and Friday.

The state Department of Health is working with all providers, including local health departments, hospitals, pharmacies and federally qualified health centers to minimize the impact on their operations and reduce the number of appointments that must be rescheduled, Cuomo said, but didn't provide further details.

"At this time, no appointments at state-run sites have been rescheduled due to these shipping issues," Cuomo said Friday. "In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to get shots into arms as quickly and fairly as possible so we can defeat this beast once and for all."

County officials on Monday received notice of the potential delays in an email from state health officials, including warnings that the shipping delays could potentially disrupt the cold-storage needs of the COVID-19 vaccines and impact the viability of vaccine.

Further, the notice informed counties that the pharmaceutical company Moderna had to recall many shipments to New York of its COVID-19 vaccines, citing how the delays impacted temperatures. The company expected to ship out replacements as soon as possible, the notice added.

More: How winter storms are delaying COVID vaccinations nationally

Bill Hall, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the national COVID-19 vaccination effort, said Wednesday the agency was tracking the issue in connection to storms impacting key shipping hubs in Louisville and Memphis.

"Any shipments that are impacted will likely deliver 24 (to) 48 hours later than originally scheduled, weather dependent," Hall said in a statement to USA TODAY Network New York.

Hall referred questions about the specific numbers of doses affected by weather delays to McKesson, the private company that the federal government contracted with to handle distribution logistics.

McKesson issued a statement Thursday afternoon in response to the questions, noting the "safety of our workforce and delivery partners is central to how we operate, as is protecting the nations critical vaccine supply in-transit."

"We will resume shipments when conditions permit the safe distribution of vaccines. We remain committed to supporting the safe and efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with the U.S. government," the statement added. 

A company spokesman said further details about the scope of delays would be available after the storm.

Rockland County officials on Thursday announced the county health department's COVID-19 second-dose vaccination clinics scheduled for Saturday and Monday have been rescheduled to Feb. 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and March 1 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., respectively, due shipment delays.

"The shipment of vaccines to be used at the (Rockland County Health Department) clinics has been delayed in order to protect the integrity of the vaccine to keep everyone safe," county officials said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, vaccination appointments at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center were rescheduled, with county officials citing the winter storm that hit the region.

Includes reporting by New York State Team Editor Jon Campbell.

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David Robinson is the state health care reporter for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached at drobinson@gannett.com and followed on Twitter: @DrobinsonLoHud