It turns out that instead of only five doses, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can actually yield six or seven doses—which could potentially expand the nation’s supply by 40 percent. On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration said that those extra doses could be used, clearing up confusion about the rules they set the previous week.
Pfizer vaccine vials are supposed to hold five doses, but pharmacists have discovered that there is enough in each vial for six or even seven doses. With concerns that the United States could run out of the vaccine early, this is a significant improvement.
“Given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable,” an agency spokesperson told POLITICO.
Erin Fox, a pharmacy expert at the University o f Utah, explained that manufacturers tend to overfill vaccine vials in case of waste or spillage. “It’s pretty unusual to have a full extra dose or more though—but it does seem to be there!” she said.
Once pharmacists noticed the extra dose, they notified Pfizer to ask for clarity, as the FDA guidelines mandated that there are five doses in each bottle. While the FDA works with Pfizer to figure out the “best path forward,” the FDA has authorized hospitals to use the extra dose.
Both the FDA and Pfizer emphasized that combining leftover portions from different vials to make a full dose of the vaccine could pose a contamination risk. Therefore, pharmacists need to use a full extra dose from only one bottle.
This week, U.S. officials began issuing the first round of coronavirus vaccine. The first person in the U.S. to receive the vaccine was Sandra Lindsay, a New York City nurse.
Lead image: Artem Podrez/Pexels.