Snowstorms and freezing temperatures wreaking havoc across the country are also taking a significant toll on COVID-19 vaccination programs, as multiple states were forced to reschedule appointments and temporarily shut down some mass inoculation distribution sites due to the bad weather.
Health officials in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Missouri, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Texas and Alabama said they have had to reschedule thousands of coronavirus vaccination appointments because of inclement weather. Even vaccination programs in sunny parts of Florida were canceled because of delays in shipments reaching the state, officials said.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson announced the state has canceled all mass vaccination programs scheduled through Friday due to the extreme weather conditions.
"Missouri is experiencing severe winter weather that makes driving dangerous and threatens the health and safety of anyone exposed to the cold. These conditions will also likely delay some vaccine shipments," Parson said in a statement. "We want to protect the safety of everyone involved in the mass vaccination events, from the patients being vaccinated to the volunteers who generously support these events."
In Texas, where emergency management officials are dealing with freezing rain and snow and a power outage affecting more than 4 million customers, health officials said the weather caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put vaccine shipments on hold until at least Wednesday, prompting providers to delay most vaccinations.
"We are not expecting deliveries to occur until at least Wednesday," the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement. "Many local vaccine providers have postponed clinics since it is not safe for people to be out across much of Texas right now. Vaccination will resume as soon as it is safe and local conditions allow."
Due to the electrical blackout in Harris County, Texas, which includes the city of Houston, health officials were forced to scramble on Monday to distribute about 5,000 vaccine doses being kept at a health department building that lost power, preventing vials from being stored at a proper temperature, officials said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said some pharmacies, including those at the Publix supermarket chain, had to cancel vaccination appointments scheduled for Wednesday because the inclement weather in other states was delaying the federal government's delivery of vaccines.
"We know how important administering this vaccine is, so we deeply regret the need to cancel Wednesday’s scheduling event," Maria Brous, a spokesperson for Publix, said in a statement. "Once additional vaccine is received, we will announce the next opportunity for vaccine appointment scheduling."
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said regional vaccination sites in his state were forced to close last week due to an ice storm and added that more bad weather this week was prompting delays in reopening the sites. Beshear called the delays in vaccinating people "unfortunate," but he said he is confident the slowdown will not have a long-term impact on the state's overall vaccine distribution effort.
"We're hoping what we're getting right now is a trickle compared to what we will get late spring and moving into the summer," Beshear said.
New Jersey and New York health officials are still trying to catch up on their inoculation programs after having to close mass vaccination sites last week due to a series of major snowstorms.