After a promise from the Trump administration that it would release a stockpile of reserved coronavirus vaccine doses, several states were expecting a huge boost in doses. Some followed federal guidance to expand eligibility to wider swaths of people.
But that promise turned out to be too good to be true — most of the stockpile had already been shipped out. And now those states are scrambling, finding themselves just as mired in the morass of the country’s beleaguered vaccine distribution as they were before.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, expecting the additional doses, opened vaccine registration to people in the state 65 and older, as well as educators and child care providers. Now, she said in a news release, the state’s plan to start vaccinating all of its older residents will be delayed by two weeks.
The confusion began Tuesday, with a statement by Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of the health and human services department, who chided states for not efficiently using their vaccines and urged them to open up eligibility to people 65 and older, as well as to tens of millions of adults with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of dying from coronavirus infection.
“We are releasing the entire supply we have for order by the states, rather than holding second doses in physical reserves,” he said, adding that vaccine doses would no longer be stockpiled.
Several states then assumed that they would get an influx of new doses that could be used to vaccinate new people. Some, including New York, quickly followed the federal government’s advice and widened vaccine access, prompting a surge of interest — and confusion — as thousands of newly eligible people sought appointments to get vaccinated.
On Thursday, Oregon officials discovered that “there were no additional doses available” in the federal distribution system beyond what had been available before the Trump administration’s Tuesday announcement, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, Patrick M. Allen, wrote in a letter to Mr. Azar, which was posted by NBC News.
Mr. Allen and Ms. Brown spoke with an official from Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s vaccine program, who “informed us there is no reserve of doses,” he wrote.
“This is extremely disturbing, and puts our plans to expand eligibility at grave risk,” Mr. Allen wrote. “Those plans were made on the basis of reliance on your statement about ‘releasing the entire supply’ you have in reserve.”
Governor Brown said on Twitter: “This is a deception on a national scale.”
On Friday, the public learned that the Trump administration had already been distributing all available doses since the end of December, after The Washington Post reported the news.
“Who’s going to be prosecuted for this?” Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota asked at a news conference on Friday. Mr. Walz said he was “not sleeping” over concerns that Minnesotans would be unable to get their second doses.
Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado said his…