Extreme winter weather in parts of U.S. could impact COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Arizona

Arizona health officials say the next phase for COVID-19 vaccinations may be pushed back, as a result of extreme winter weather that is affecting COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the state.

During a news conference on Feb. 19, Dr. Cara Christ with the Arizona Department of Health Services says they are hoping to get back on track, once the deliveries of the vaccines are finally made. Meanwhile, vaccination appointments in the state have had to be cancelled or rescheduled as a result of the delays, and the majority of these cancellations are impacting Arizona's rural counties.

"As Moderna is being impacted by the weather, they are not receiving those shipments, and that is delaying appointments," said Dr. Christ.

Rural counties are allocated Moderna vaccine doses because they are easier to store. In all, Dr. Christ says all Moderna vaccinations last week were delayed, totaling about 89,000 doses.

"Hopefully, we will be able to go back to vaccinate all of those people," said Dr. Christ. "We have to reschedule the ones we have had to cancel through the state, and we can stay on track."

Dr. Christ says the Moderna vaccinations are set to arrive next week. However, she added that the delays still may impact vaccination efforts.

Arizona’s weekly Pfizer vaccine allotment of roughly 85,800 was also initially delayed but arrived mid-week. Among the locations where Pfizer doses are administered are the two state-run mass vaccination sites in Phoenix and a third that opened at the University of Arizona in Tucson on Thursday. There was no disruption to appointments as the state was able to redistribute some Pfizer doses, Christ said.

Dr. Christ says currently, there are about 250,000 to 300,000 people who are getting vaccinated each week, which she says may be enough to keep the state from falling too far behind.

"Trying to catch up may take a little bit, but overall, I am not concerned," said Dr. Christ.

According to state health officials, Maricopa and Pinal Counties have enough doses.

Weather-delayed vaccines impacting Arizona’s rural counties

Rural Arizona counties forced to cancel or postpone vaccination appointments because of delayed shipments of thousands of doses will hopefully receive them next week, health officials said Friday.

Mohave County was among those impacted when it failed to receive its weekly amount of 3,000 doses. The county as a result had to pause plans to phase in those 65 and older, educators and child care workers, Roger Galloway, a county spokesman, said in a statement. It was a snag for an "already scarce vaccine allotment," he added.

The state will aim to adjust next week’s allotments for the counties accordingly to include doses for all the appointments that didn’t happen.

"Hopefully, we’ll have a lot more Moderna next weekend and can get to some of those appointments that were canceled," Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state Department of Health Services, told reporters during virtual briefing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.