As Feds Dispute COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Reductions, Pritzker Stands Firm On Lower Estimates

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker appears at a news conference Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker appears at a news conference Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

As Feds Dispute COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Reductions, Pritzker Stands Firm On Lower Estimates

A day after announcing Illinois will receive fewer doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine than expected over the next two weeks, Gov. JB Pritzker said he is no closer to finding out why.

On Wednesday, Pritzker and several other states around the country said that they are now expecting to receive far fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the next few weeks — potentially as few as half as what the federal government had promised.

But the Trump administration disputed that, saying it had not, in fact, over-promised on how many Pfizer vaccines would go to states.

“Operation Warp Speed allocation numbers locked in with states have not been changed or adjusted,” a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said.

The announcement prompted Pfizer to release a statement of its own on Thursday morning saying a reduction in vaccines going to states did not come from any issues in manufacturing or delivering the vaccines. The pharmaceutical company added it has millions more doses sitting in warehouses awaiting instructions from the federal government about where to ship them.

Pritzker on Thursday seemed to throw up his hands at Pfizer’s statement.

“I don’t know what to say about that,” the governor said. “I have not had any direct conversations with the people who control those doses. Our (Illinois Department of Public Health) talks to the federal government every day and we’ve not been informed why the federal government is not drawing down those vaccines.”

Pritzker said the federal government has assured him, however, that Illinois will receive the second doses of the vaccine that are needed to fully vaccinate those health care workers who are receiving the first dose this week. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses, spread over a three-week period of time.

Pritzker said Thursday that Illinois has received all the 109,000 Pfizer vaccines it was promised for this week. And he said he knows that 3,500 people have so far already been given the first dose of vaccine, a tally that only includes people outside of Chicago, which received its own allotment within that first batch of vaccines.

The dispute over how many vaccines are coming next and when they will arrive comes as another 8,828 residents tested positive with COVID-19, including 181 deaths. The number of deaths have remained stubbornly high compared to earlier in the pandemic, even as hospitalizations have been declining statewide.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.