Dr. Fauci says winter storm in Texas is a ‘significant’ problem for Covid vaccine distribution

By | February 18, 2021

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a White House press briefing, conducted by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

The winter storm and power outages across Texas pose a “significant” problem for Covid-19 vaccine distribution, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Thursday.

“Well, obviously it’s an issue. It’s been slowed down in some places going to a grinding halt,” Fauci said during an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “We’re just going to have to make up for it as soon as the weather lifts a bit, the ice melts and we can get the trucks out and the people out.”

“It is significant when you have that swath of the country … that is really in many respects immobilized,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The Biden administration is working to pick up the pace of vaccinations in the U.S. after a slower-than-expected rollout under former President Donald Trump. However, the winter storm battering Texas is causing some Covid-19 vaccine shipments to be delayed and forcing vaccination sites to temporarily close.

Nearly half a million Texans are still without power as of Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, after the state’s electric grid could not keep up with the demand for heat during record-low temperatures, causing more than 4 million outages. Millions of people are still under boil-water notices, according to The Weather Channel.

The severe weather has disrupted service at FedEx’s hub in Memphis and caused package delays across the U.S., the company said earlier this week. UPS’ Worldport package hub in Louisville, Kentucky, and another regional hub in Dallas have since reopened after temporarily closing Monday night due to the weather.

It’s unclear how this will impact the three new community vaccination centers, in Dallas, Arlington and Houston, that the Biden administration plans to help build. Jeff Zients, President Joe Biden’s Covid czar, told reporters last week that centers would be operational the week of Feb. 22 and would allow providers to administer more than 10,000 shots per day.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Once Texas opens more roads and residents have uninterrupted power, health-care providers are going to have to do “double time” on Covid-19 vaccinations, Fauci said Thursday.

Roughly 3 million of the some 29 million Texans have received at least their first dose of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccines, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 1.2 million of those people have already gotten their second shot.

Fauci added that he doesn’t know how many vaccine doses could have been destroyed due to power outages or delivery delays.

— CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.

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