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Vaccine distribution to rebound by midweek after winter storm delays

Southern states hit by snow, ice, brutal cold recovering

I-45 near Teague, Texas as road becomes icy Feb. 13, 2021. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The severe winter storms that have devastated Texas and surrounding states have delayed the distribution of 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it’s only a “temporary setback” that will be fixed by the middle of this week.

“Obviously it is a setback because you’d like to see the steady flow of vaccines getting out there to get into people’s arms, but we can play pretty good catch-up,” Fauci said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The number was 6 million doses [that] got delayed. We’ve gotten 2 million out, and we project that by the middle of the week we will have caught up,” Fauci said.

Parts of Texas and other Southern states were slammed with multiple daily record snowfalls last week, ranging from 4 to nearly 12 inches in places like Dallas, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee. Freezing rain formed thick ice, leading to widespread, prolonged road closures. Many cities had record low temperatures, some subzero, and subfreezing conditions lasted for several days. The region began thawing over the weekend.

The brutal weather left millions of people without power — about 4 million in Texas alone at one point last Tuesday. Even though power has been restored to most of Texas and other affected states, broken pipes mean many still lack clean water. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in 77 counties across Texas, making them eligible for federal recovery funds, and some emergency management officials want to include the entire state in the disaster declaration.

The rough weather prompted what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called “widespread delays in COVID-19 vaccine shipments and deliveries.” Power failures also forced some health care officials to quickly administer vaccine doses before they spoiled.

More than 57 million doses of the vaccines have been administered — with 41 million first doses administered and 16 million people fully vaccinated with the two-dose regimen — according to an NBC News analysis.


Overall freight volumes, as well as vaccine shipments, should snap back this week. But it may take some time for carriers to work through the freight disrupted by the storms. According to FreightWaves market expert Seth Holm, this will keep upward pressure on tender rejection rates — the rate at which shipper requests for truckload capacity are rejected by carriers — as well as spot rates through the end of February and right into the beginning of the spring freight season. 

As of Sunday, the average daily number of COVID-19 cases continued to plummet from a post-holiday peak. The U.S. has reported more than 100,000 new daily cases on only one of the last 14 days, a month after it regularly hit more than 200,000 new cases each day. Daily deaths are decreasing too, but at a slower rate, still regularly eclipsing 2,000.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.