February 16, 2021 2:30 PM, EST

Snow, Ice May Stall Vaccine Shipments

Cars parked for several days in Chicago Feb. 16, 2021 are covered in cumulative snow. Cars parked for several days in Chicago Feb. 16, 2021 are covered in cumulative snow. A storm dumped up to 18 inches in the greater Chicago area. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)

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The U.S. vaccine supply is increasing to 13.5 million doses per week, up from 11 million, but harsh winter weather may slow the pace temporarily.

Federal officials warned governors on Feb. 16 that snow and icy conditions this week may delay vaccine shipments, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said on Twitter.

The poor weather was expected to hamper air hubs for FedEx Corp. in Memphis, Tenn., and United Parcel Service Inc. in Louisville, Ky., both major players in transporting the vaccines. FedEx said it wasn’t aware of any spoilage within its transportation network. While the severe weather is limiting its ability to pick up and deliver in some cities, vaccine deliveries are getting priority status, said spokeswoman Bonny Harrison on Feb. 16.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Feb. 16 the number of shots distributed through pharmacies is soon expected to double.

President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, announced the increases to governors in a conference call earlier, Psaki told reporters at a briefing. Two million doses will be delivered to pharmacies this week, she said, up from 1 million. The pharmacy program began Feb. 11.

“This program will expand access in neighborhoods across the country,” she said. “Eventually, as supply increases, more than 40,000 pharmacy locations nationwide will be providing COVID-19 vaccines through this program. This is a critical, critical part of our plan.”

The pace of vaccinations in the U.S. has steadily increased, standing at about 1.7 million doses per day, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker.

The increase stems from a rise in shipments, as well as a change in authorization to extract six doses from each vial of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine, instead of five. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna Inc.’s vaccines require two doses. Potential authorization of a third vaccine — such as Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose candidate — would further fuel the increase.

The U.S. has administered a total of 54.6 million doses, with about 11.9% of the population having received at least a first dose, data show.

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