Hospitals find Pfizer vials hold extra doses, helping to expand supply

Hospitals across the nation and in Boston have discovered Pfizer coronavirus vaccine vials, which were expected to hold five doses, actually have enough for six doses, which can increase the nation’s supply by up to 40%.
“We are finding 6 doses in the majority of our vials and we are using the additional dose in our employee vaccination clinic,” said Ross Thompson, chief pharmacy officer at Tufts Medical Center.
The Pfizer vaccine must be diluted with saline, which pharmacists do before administering doses.
Thompson said the extra doses could be the result of the syringe and needle system that is used, as it minimizes the amount of vaccine that would otherwise be lost in the residual space within a larger needle.
“The process of drawing up the doses is a little slower than if we used a larger system. But gaining these extra doses seems far more important,” Thompson said.
The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement, “Given the public health emergency, it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable (the sixth, or possibly even a seventh) from each vial, pending resolution of the issue.”
Dr. Doran Fink of the FDA, speaking during Thursday’s meeting for the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, said, “With a dose volume of 0.3 ml it’s actually not at all unexpected that there would be more than five doses in those vaccines.”
The boost in doses has been seen at other Boston hospitals as well. A spokeswoman for Boston Medical Center said the hospital has been getting six doses from each vial, increasing doses by about 390.
A spokesman for Massachusetts General Hospital also said they have been consistently getting six doses out of one vial due to overfill.
Pfizer said it was intentional for the vials to have variation and overfill due to differences in needles and added that if there isn’t enough left in a vial for a full extra dose, the vial should be thrown away.
WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Kristopher Young, PHARMD loads a needle with COVID-19 vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Kristopher Young, PHARMD opens the freezer that stores the COVID-19 vaccine which is at -79 degrees Celsius at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Megan Lee, Physician Assistant gets vaccinated, she was one of the 500 employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Grace Sullivan, RN readies COVID-19 shots. Over 500 employees were scheduled today to receive a vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Kenneth Hutchinson, PA-C gets a COVID-19 shot. Over 500 employees were scheduled today to receive a vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Some of the 500 employees that received the COVID-19 vaccine wait to see if they have any side effects at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Kristopher Young, PHARMD opens the freezer that stores the COVID-19 vaccine which is at -79 degrees Celsius at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: One of the 500 employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Patricia Thompson, Surgical Technologist gets a COVID-19 shot. Over 500 employees were scheduled today to receive a vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: The freezer that stores the COVID-19 vaccine is at -79 degrees celsius at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Simone Wildes, MD Infectious Disease Specialist gives a thumbs up after receiving a COVID-19 shot. Over 500 employees were scheduled today to receive a vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Kristopher Young, PHARMD loads a needle with COVID-19 vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Simone Wildes, MD Infectious Disease Specialist gets a COVID-19 shot from Susan Adams RN. Over 500 employees were scheduled today to receive a vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Kristopher Young, PHARMD loads a needle with COVID-19 vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Kristopher Young, PHARMD loads a needle with COVID-19 vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Needles with the COVID-19 vaccine at the ready at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Jane Lee MD winces as she gets a COVID-19 shot. Over 500 employees were scheduled today to receive a vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 17: Kristopher Young, PHARMD holds a needle with the COVID-19 vaccine at the South Shore Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)Show Caption of Expand

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