Maine Getting 40% Fewer Pfizer Vaccine Doses Than Expected Next Week

Maine cannot substitute one shot for another because of the way the vaccine rollout was designed, the director of the state's CDC said

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Maine is one of the states saying it will get fewer doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week than the federal government promised.

Its allocation of Pfizer vaccine will be 40% smaller, 8,775 shots instead of 13,650, according to Gov. Janet Mills and state public health officials.

“A few days ago, we learned that estimate had been lowered significantly,” said Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah in a Friday afternoon news briefing. “This is unfortunately a finding that occurred in other states as well.”

Like Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Shah is not sure why his state will not get the promised doses from the federal government. But their absence will have an immediate impact on Maine’s vaccine rollout plan.

It was scheduled to enter a new phase next week, when people in assisted living facilities and residential care facilities would begin getting vaccinated, according to Shah.

On Sunday morning, workers at Pfizer's Michigan headquarters starting packing up their covid-19 vaccination for distribution.

But without the proper Pfizer vaccine allocation, Maine does not meet a threshold for vaccines on hand to administer those shots.

“We did not physically have enough of the vaccine available to us,” Shah explained.

Instead, the doses will only go to skilled nursing facilities.

In a statement, Mills called the reduction “frustrating,” saying it is disruptive to Maine’s plan to prevent as much of its population as possible from getting COVID-19.

Could the need for people to get two shots of some COVID-19 vaccines create distribution problems? We take a look at the "two dose problem" and how it could impact the rollout of vaccines.

She also said the federal government should be more transparent with any future changes.

In a separate statement Friday, a Maine Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman wrote that Maine’s congressional delegation is indeed asking federal officials to make that transparency a reality.

All that said, there were some vaccine success stories in Maine this week -- more than 2,260 people got their first of two doses.

According to Maine CDC, none of those people will be waiting on their second dose because of the smaller shipment.

“Those second doses are being held in reserve for us,” Shah said.

During Friday’s press briefing, NECN/NBC10 Boston asked if extra doses of the Moderna vaccine could be used to supplement the unallocated Pfizer vaccine, should Moderna’s shot get emergency use authorization from the federal government.

Shah replied that it is not possible to substitute one shot for another because of the way the vaccine rollout was designed.

Maine signed on to use the Pfizer vaccine first and is bound to that commitment, with no option to swap out one vaccine for another.

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