Weather delays shipment of COVID-19 vaccine to Hidalgo County, clinics

The cold weather has prompted a temporary halt of COVID-19 vaccine shipments from the state, Hidalgo County officials announced in a news release Wednesday.

Because of the delay, the county now plans on prioritizing second dose inoculations that were scheduled this week.

“Once again, we are facing a new challenge in what has been some very challenging times,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said in a statement that explained state officials control the distribution of the vaccine supply. “But we will get through this.”

“As vaccine manufacturers have been ramping up production, the state had begun providing several thousand doses to Hidalgo County for 1st dose vaccinations,” the county said in the release. “They would also typically provide an equal amount for 2nd dose vaccines.”

The county attributed the state’s problems to airport closures and road conditions that impacted the distribution chain.

The halt in shipments is also affecting clinics run by South Texas Health System (STHS), according to Tom Castañeda, a spokesman for the health system.

“We were expecting second dose shipments this week at the clinics at STHS McAllen and STHS Edinburg, but those have been delayed after this week’s inclement weather situation,” Castañeda wrote via email. “Those who have received the first dose at our facilities can rest assured that they will receive their second dose as soon as those shipments arrive.”

The shipment delays, however, will not affect STHS’ hospitals because they were not expecting to receive any to begin with.

“South Texas Health System has not received any Pfizer or Moderna first dose shipments in more than a month as the state has prioritized delivery of the vaccine to the county and its vaccine hubs,” Castañeda said. “STHS is focused on administering the second dose vaccination for healthcare workers and first responders during this time.”

Kathleen Davila, a spokesman for Prime Healthcare which owns Mission Regional Medical Center, Knapp Medical Center and Harlingen Medical Center, said they also were not expecting to receive any shipments this week despite requests several weeks ago to the state for more doses.

Similarly, Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen will not be affected by the delay of the vaccine, according to Adriana Morales, director of community and public relations for the hospital.

Officials with DHR Health said their shipment of vaccine doses was delayed earlier this week because of the weather, but the state assured them it would be arriving Wednesday.

“We don’t expect any changes,” said Sherri Abendroth, the hospital’s director of safety and emergency management. “We have confirmation that the vaccine was shipped to us and should be arriving in the area at any moment, so we’re moving forward with our plans to vaccinate over the next few days.”

DHR receives weekly shipments of COVID-19 vaccine doses and still expects to receive its next shipment sometime next week.

“It’ll be our second dose, Pfizer,” Abendroth said, referring to the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech. “And then our first dose allocation will be the week of March 1.”

The shipment expected to arrive Wednesday was also first-dose vials of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

As for the county, officials said they plan to complete some of the first dose distributions and  are “committed to complete” distribution of second doses.

Afterward, only second doses will be available at county clinics the rest of the week.

“As always, we ask that people remain patient,” Cortez said in the news release. “We will eventually have vaccines available to everyone who wants them.”

Next week’s vaccine allocations have not been finalized with the state, the county further stated.