The chief operating officer of the government’s vaccine accelerator on Saturday took responsibility for overstating the number of Pfizer coronavirus shots that states would have available to them.
Operation Warp Speed originally estimated up to 7.3 million doses could be available in the second week of vaccine distribution. Instead, about 4.3 million shots are ready — a discrepancy that has left governors scrambling to revise their vaccination plans.
“It was a planning error, and I am responsible,” Army Gen. Gustave Perna said. “We’re learning from it. We’re trying to get better.”
His acknowledgment put an end to over 48 hours of confusion among state officials about the vaccine, which is administered in two doses 21 days apart. The government is sending out about half of the shots that are ready, with the remainder being kept in reserve for the second inoculations.
Perna said millions of the doses he originally identified were not ready to be shipped out, adding the vaccine must be “releasable in accordance with the FDA.”
An FDA spokesperson pointed to language in the letter authorizing Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use, which states that the company must submit a certificate of analysis for each product at least 48 hours before the vaccine is distributed. The agency does not have to sign off on the paperwork before the company can ship the vaccine.
“The mistake I made is not understanding with exactness — again, my responsibility —on all the steps that have to occur to make sure the vaccine is releasable,” Perna said.
Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Officials in Maine, which is anticipating 40 percent fewer doses next week, have said they will push back vaccinating residents and staff at assisted living and some residential care facilities.
Large states, like California, are receiving over 100,000 less doses than expected. The state was originally projected to receive around 393,000 shots next week. That estimate has now decreased to 233,000.
David Lim contributed to this report.