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Covid France: extra vaccine dose does not mean more overall

Six rather than five doses of vaccine can now be extracted per vial, leading Pfizer to say it will deliver fewer vials to match the initial order of doses

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has authorised the usage of an extra dose per vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but this will not result in France having extra doses as the pharmaceutical company provides vaccines by the dose, not by the bottle.

The agency outlined its updated recommendation on January 8, stating that six doses rather than five could be taken from each vial containing the Covid-19 vaccine. 

This would mean France would technically be able to vaccinate 20% more people with the number of vials of the Pfizer vaccine it has so far received.

However, the contract established between the EU and the pharmaceutical company is based on the number of doses, not vials. This means that as EU countries are now taking six doses per vial, Pfizer will deliver fewer vials to match the number of doses ordered. 

This could cause complications as the sixth dose in the vial is more difficult to extract and requires a special syringe. 

“In order to extract six doses from a single vial, low dead-volume syringes and/or needles should be used,” the EMA states.

“If standard syringes and needles are used, there may not be enough of the vaccine to extract a sixth dose from a vial.”

“If the amount of vaccine remaining in the vial after the fifth dose cannot provide a full dose (0.3 ml), the healthcare professional must discard the vial and its contents. There should be no pooling from multiple vials to make up a full dose, and any unused vaccine should be discarded 6 hours after dilution,” it notes.

This special syringe is not common in medical practices in France.

France’s health ministry has stated, “we have to battle to ensure that we can extract these six doses” because “if we don’t succeed, we will have a loss of vaccines compared to what we were expecting”, magazine Le Point reported.

The ministry says it has launched requests for "supplies to obtain new types of syringes".

Read more:

Covid vaccine France: Am I guaranteed to get second dose?

France aims to roll out Covid jab to all by end of August

Covid France: ‘I had to try for days to book vaccination’

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