Though the historic rollout of the first coronavirus vaccine is now in process, one of the many challenges ahead will be producing and securing enough doses for the American public to start getting inoculated by the government’s bullish prediction of late March. But pharmacists on the receiving end of the distribution chain may have figured out a simple solution to the monumental problem.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that pharmacists informed the agency that vials containing the Pfizer vaccine had more than the expected number of doses in them — an excess that may be enough to expand the national supply by up to 40 percent. While the FDA has not yet officially announced a rule change allowing the extra vaccine to be administered, an agency spokesperson told Politico that “given the public-health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable.”
The vials distributed by Pfizer should hold five doses, but pharmacists have informed the pharmaceutical company and the FDA that many contain enough for six or seven shots. Both Pfizer and the FDA have advised pharmacists not to blend additional amounts of the vaccine from multiple vials, due to the potential for contamination.
While it’s common for vaccine manufacturers to overfill vials to protect against waste or in case of spills, the excess could be crucial to helping expand the early vaccine rollout to stop the spread of a virus that has killed over 307,000 Americans. For the Pfizer candidate, extra shots lying around will be especially important, as the Trump administration is currently negotiating with the pharmaceutical company for another 100 million doses that they passed on purchasing in the summer.