GIF from HHS video

Just days after everyone was bursting into tears of relief over videos of trucks pulling out of warehouse parking lots to deliver the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, a bunch of state health departments announced that they'd been informed by the federal government that they'd be getting far less of the vaccine than had been originally allocated, or that deliveries of the vaccine would be delayed. Here's a quick rundown from New York magazine:

Iowa and Missouri are now looking at as much as a 30 percent reduction in doses, Kansas will receive 37 percent less than expected, and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has said that the state may receive just half the amount the state was supposed to get in December. Maryland, Florida, and Oregon are expecting delays, while Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts was informed that vaccine delivery would "be pushed off to the last week of December."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted Thursday morning that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had informed his state that "vaccine allocation will be cut by 40 percent next week — and that all states are seeing similar cuts." He added that "No explanation was given."


California Gov. Gavin Newsom's office said Thursday that California's next shipment of vaccine would be about 40 percent smaller, from an expected 383,000 doses down to only 233,000.

On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a pair of shipments of the vaccine, totaling 450,000 doses, "are on hold right now. We don't know whether we will get any or not. And we're just going to have to wait." DeSantis blamed the delay on "a production issue with Pfizer."

Pfizer issued a statement Thursday saying nuts to that, we're not slowing down a damn thing:

Pfizer is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed. This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them. We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.

So what the hell is going on? It was all enough to make Rachel Maddow visibly angry and outraged:

In a subsequent interview with Washington Post reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb, who's been covering the confusion, Maddow apologized for being "wound up" over the issue, though again she may have had other words for it. Maddow noted this didn't even seem to be a logistical snafu, but apparently just plain confusion in the federal government. Asked if she'd seen any signs that all the news coverage might have spurred the government to fix the mess, Abutaleb said, "The problem is there's not a lot of acknowledgement of a snafu yet."

The government's explanations have been pretty darn special, and of course seem to contradict each other. Or maybe they all make sense if you read them right. (Hahaha, we are kidding.) Let's look at a few!

Numero Uno: CNN reports that an HHS spokesperson explained any reports of cuts in allocations are "incorrect" and that it's just a matter of deliveries being spread out a bit, like over time, which sounds to us like a really clumsy way of saying there are going to be delays without admitting that it could indeed amount to fewer doses arriving next week. Look at this waffling bullshit:

As was done with the initial shipments of Pfizer vaccine, jurisdictions will receive vaccine at different sites over several days. This eases the burden on the jurisdictions and spreads the workload across multiple days. This same process was successfully used for the initial distribution of Pfizer's vaccine, and we are simply applying lessons learned.

And bullshit waffles, as we all know, are the very worst waffles.

Numero Two-o: The Washington Post found a "senior administration official" who says the seeming cuts are all just a matter of a change in how much vaccine was on hand when the government told states what was on the way. The anonymous official

said the revised estimates were the result of states' requesting an expedited timeline for locking in their allocations for the following week; notification of how many doses they could order each week was consequently advanced from Friday to Tuesday. Since Pfizer is producing doses daily, the official said, fewer doses were available Tuesday than will be available on Friday.

We like this one, because it seems to suggest it was the states' fault for asking for the information sooner, and that resulted in information they stupidly thought meant they'd get less vaccine.

Numero Drei-o: The Associated Press gets a cookie for finding two senior administration officials who teamed up to (maybe) explain why the delivery schedule seemed to change. One said that the initial projections states received reflected the manufacturer's projections, not a firm allocation, and the states may have been confused. Then the officials agreed that the new numbers simply show that, as per #1 above, the full allocation for the week will be spaced out over several days.

That's kind of neat, since it suggests that the initial allocation number wasn't actually as big as states thought, AND the states will definitely get their full allocation of ... whatever it actually is?

Numero Cat: The Sacramento Bee reports a White House spokesperson, Michael Bars, insisted, "No allocations have been cut," and that claims they had were "inaccurate." The paper then goes on to say that a "federal official familiar with the matter" explained the whole thing was the result of a Defense Department system called "Tiberius" that incorrectly used "outdated practice numbers" for vaccine distribution from last week, and so wholly fictitious numbers went out to the states.

"Tiberius has been online for a couple of months, and it's where a lot of the exercise and planning modules were where they could see potential allocations," said a federal official familiar with the matter. "The problem is that they kept those exercising and planning modules in there, and that's what people were looking at as late as last week."

And then, presumably, Tiberius asked the state health officials, "SHALL WE PLAY A GAME?"

So as of today, it looks like either this is either 1) merely a communications fuckup and there won't be people missing out on planned vaccinations next week — hooray? 2) Could be that all the senior officials (except the Tiberius person, LOL) are trying to say pretty much the same thing but muffing it, or 3) maybe there's a genuine clustercoitus in the federal government's delivery of the vaccine, and there are a lot of Top Men out there desperately trying to cover the administration's ass.

Golly, it's the Trump administration. Which could it possibly be? Fortunately, the Moderna vaccine is on the verge of getting its own emergency approval from the FDA, which means it should start going out next week as well. Depending on what Tiberius decides.

[New York / Sacramento Bee / NBC News / CNN / WaPo / AP / CBS News]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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