Two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are being thrown away for every bottle used, a French doctor has claimed, as France continues to receive criticism for the slowness of its vaccination rollout.
Dr Pierre Alemmano, from the Pôle Santé Saint-Jean in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes, told newspaper Nice Matin: “Are we rich enough that we can throw away Pfizer vaccines? The calculation is simple.
“They deliver us bottles containing 2.2ml of vaccine, with an obligation to give only five doses per bottle. Knowing that one dose is 0.3ml, after vaccinating five people, there is 0.7ml remaining that gets thrown away, even though it would allow us to vaccinate two more people,” he said.
Medical experts admitted to Nice Matin that one more person could be vaccinated per bottle, but that repeated use of the same bottle means that there is some unavoidable loss, so getting two more vaccinations from the bottle “would be more difficult”.
Dr Alemmano has called regional health agency l’ARS (Agence Régionale de Santé) Paca in Marseille, to report the potential wastage. He said that they said they had sent the information to health authority la Haute Autorité de Santé, and were awaiting a response.
Other doctors are now also campaigning for the official market instruction for the Pfizer vaccine to be changed. It currently advises five doses per bottle, but campaigners are calling for it to read six doses instead, so that more people can be vaccinated.
However, this may have knock-on financial repercussions. Pfizer could raise the price of the vaccine, to make up for the fact that fewer bottles will be needed to vaccinate the same number of people.
Nice Matin reports that some doctors have anonymously confessed to already vaccinating more people per bottle than legally specified, to ensure that they do not waste more of the vaccine than necessary.
The claims come as France has already received criticism for its slow rollout of the vaccine.
In its first week, just 516 doses were administered, with the vaccination campaign beginning in elderly care homes only, with the requirement for written consent being detailed as a factor in the slow rollout.
Last night, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that 45,000 people in France had now received the first dose of the jab, including care home residents and medical workers aged 50 and over.
This is compared to more than 300,000 people in Germany - which started its campaign the day before France - and more than one million people in the UK, which began its rollout on December 8.
Health minister Olivier Véran has defended France’s rollout, saying that it is due to the country’s choice to begin vaccinations in elderly care homes, and the challenges in calculating the number of doses per care home to avoid wastage.
He has repeatedly said that France will quickly catch up with neighbouring countries as it begins the next stages of its campaign, including vaccinating more people, and using the Moderna vaccine as well as the Pfizer/BioNTech, after it received authorisation from the European Medicines Agency this week.
Last night, Mr Castex also announced a series of updates on the vaccination campaign, including that people aged over 75 and living at home will be eligible for vaccination from Monday January 18.