Pa. Health Department: Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine misused as first doses

The Pennsylvania Health Department has announced that second doses of the Moderna vaccine have been misused.

As a result of the unprecedented mix-up, the second doses of the Moderna vaccine were instead used as first doses causing health officials to scramble in order to allocate those doses effectively.

Health officials called it a "structural issue" that began in early January, but was not addressed until it compounded week-over-week. 

"As the Pennsylvania Health Department works to improve the complex processes necessary to get the COVID-19 vaccine from the manufacturers into the arms of Pennsylvanians as quickly as possible, we discovered some providers inadvertantly used the Moderna vaccine shipped to them, intended as second doses as first doses," Alison Beam explained. 

Although she wouldn't specify, Beam did state that multiple providers misused the second doses of the Moderna vaccine as first doses. 

Calling it "the perfect storm of circumstances", Beam pointed to an eagerness to deliver the vaccine, demand from the public, inconsistent vaccine allocations, confusion about Operation Warp Speed deliveries, and the need for more frequent communication from the Department led to this issue.

In the short term, there is an excess of Moderna vaccine requests. However, the Pfizer vaccine is not effected by this issue. 

As a path forward, Beam asserted that they explored excess inventory not yet scheduled for administration and will be adjusting the timing of the second dose administration.

Roughly 200,000 second doses of Moderna vaccine were requested, which is nearly the entire allocation of Moderna vaccines (including the first dose). Roughly 30-60,000 appointments could need to be rescheduled, according to health officials. 

Ultimately, the health officials indicated that a scarcity of vaccines in general was a large cause of the circumstances surrounding the issue their currently dealing with. 

The Pennsylvania Health Department is working to ensure those that need their second dose will be able to get that, but will likely have to reschedule. Patients will be able to secure their second shots at most two weeks out, according to health officials.  

"We are committed to ensuring that second doses are available," Beam stated.

The ultimate goal is to make sure the extremely limited number of vaccines is distributed to people as efficiently and quickly as possible, Beam explained. 

Montgomery County Commissioners announced that first dose clinics will be closed on Thursday, Feb. 18, and Friday, Feb. 19 due to a combination of decreased supply and forecasts for inclement weather. 

The Lehigh Valley Health Network also announced that due to a lack of adequate vaccine supply received from Pennsylvania they must cancel and reschedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments for people scheduled to receive their second dose of the Moderna vaccine on Friday, Feb. 19. 



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