As FEMA balances vaccines, response to winter storms, White House says storms hampering efforts

Diana Swiga
Posted at 5:55 PM, Feb 17, 2021

As FEMA becomes more involved with distributing coronavirus vaccines, the agency has been thrusted into responding to winter storms that have left parts of the Southern US, especially Texas, without power.

The White House coronavirus response team acknowledged on Wednesday that the weather has complicated efforts getting the vaccines to communities.

"The weather is having an impact it's having an impact on distribution and deliveries, from the delivery companies, and the distribution companies, people are working as hard as they can, given the importance of getting the vaccines to the states and to providers. But there is an impact on deliveries,” said Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response team coordinator. “We want to make sure that as we've lost some time in some states for people to get needles in arms that our partners do all they can to make up that lost round consistent with distributing the vaccine to people as efficiently and equitably as possible."

FEMA says that as of Wednesday, 1,279 staff across the nation are supporting vaccination centers with federal personnel and technical assistance. FEMA said it’s in the process of adding more staff to community vaccination centers across the US.

FEMA said it has also finalized contracts for 30 mobile vaccination units across the US.

“Even as we continue working on vaccination distribution support efforts, FEMA maintains its mission readiness in supporting a variety of disasters, including recent snowstorms,” FEMA said in a statement. “A major winter storm is spreading from the Southern Plains into the Northeast through Tuesday, with a large area of snow, sleet and freezing rain expected. Significant travel disruptions are expected, and power outages are occurring as winter weather extends from south Texas into Maine.”

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk.Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook.