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Packaging To Blame For Misallocation Of Vaccine Doses

Andrew Medichini
A health worker holds up a bottle of a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to over eighty-year-olds, at a vaccine center in Rome's Auditorium, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

Each afternoon, we'll be sharing a roundup of the day's latest updates and headlines around the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine rollout in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania. 


Thurdsay, Feb. 18, 2021

A significant bottleneck will delay thousands of Pennsylvanians from getting the second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Part of the reason that providers might have mistaken second-dose allotments for first doses is because the packaging is the same.

“Not everyone was tracking that as closely as we assumed they were. And the department is putting into place better tracking systems,” Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesman Barry Ciccocioppo said.

The health department assures people that they will receive the second Moderna shot within 42 days—which is the recommended window by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are two-dose regimens. So it’s not clear why the mix-up only occurred with Moderna allotments. During a Thursday press briefing, Ciccocioppo was asked why this is a Moderna-only issue:

“Because the providers who had the Moderna are the providers who delivered those second doses instead of first doses,” Ciccocioppo said.

Due to its ultra-cold storage requirements, doses of Pfizer are more likely to be sent to larger facilities, such as hospitals that have research-grade freezers. Smaller providers are more likely to receive Moderna shipments.

Credit Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA

The snowy weather across the region is clogging roadways and slowing traffic, which means vaccination shipments have been delayed, too.

Many Pennsylvanians with vaccine appointments Thursday were forced to cancel them due to snowy weather. But the slowdown might extend beyond the storm itself.  That's because of shipping delays from the vaccine manufacturing facilities to the commonwealth.

Lindsey Mauldin with the Pennsylvania Department of Health said Moderna vaccines were not sent out for three days this week because of bad weather elsewhere in the country. Fewer Pfizer vaccines than allocated were shipped.

"There will be a significant backlog of orders for distribution as a result of the adverse weather."

Mauldin wasn't able to say how many doses this will set the commonwealth back, but said that most vaccine providers would be affected by a shortage of supplies. This delay is in addition to one caused by providers who mistakenly administered first doses of the Moderna vaccine that were supposed to be reserved for second shots.


Allegheny County:

  • 247 new cases
  • No new deaths


  • 3,345 new cases
  • 94 new deaths
  • 2,174 patients hospitalized
  • 465 patients in ICU
  • 1,832,638 vaccine doses administered