White House vaccine chief explains why states haven't received number of vaccines promised

UPS employees move one of two shipping containers containing the first shipments of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine inside a sorting facility at UPS Worldport on Dec. 13, in Louisville, KY. By Allison Gordon and Naomi Thomas, CNN

(CNN) -- The chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed explained Sunday that an unpredicted "two-day lag period" is the reason why many states have not received the number of vaccines promised.

"We all made the error or mistake of assuming that vaccine that's actually produced and being released is already available for shipment, when, in fact, there is a two-days lag between the time at which we generate a lot of data that shows this vaccine vial is actually safe and right and the time we can ship it," Moncef Slaoui told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" when asked about the delay.

Last week, health officials across the country were left confused and frustrated after being told they would receive fewer doses than originally planned for by the federal government's Operation Warp Speed.

On Thursday, Pfizer put out a statement that the company was "not having any production issues" and that "we have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses."

Slaoui's comments on Sunday about the two-day lag come a day after Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, apologized for miscommunicating the number of vaccine shipments to states.

In his interview with Tapper, Slaoui said it was brave for Perna "to take this on him personally."

Across the country, state leaders have called out the delay in receiving the vaccine.

On Saturday, Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers urged the federal government to send them more doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, tweeting, "It's unacceptable that our state will only be receiving 35,100 doses of Pfizer next week—far fewer than were expected after the initial doses allocated earlier this week."

In Illinois, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker said on Wednesday that he is expecting the reduction in vaccine doses "will likely cut our state's projected Pfizer shipments this month by roughly half."

In Washington, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee also expressed concern about the unforeseen reduction in vaccines. On Thursday, he tweeted that the state's vaccine allocation will be cut by 40% next week, and that "no explanation was given."

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn has also addressed the issue of vaccine hold ups. In a tweet on Saturday, he explained that the "FDA is not requiring lot release for #COVID19 vaccine under EUA. The Conditions of Authorization require the companies to submit Certificates of Analysis for each lot at least 48 hrs prior to vaccine distribution and they can distribute without waiting for FDA's ok."

Slaoui told Tapper on Sunday that he believes this error has now been addressed.

"We are increasing the level of communication with the governors in order to make sure that, you know, there are no mistakes that happen or miscommunication," he said.

This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.

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