Pfizer will be able to supply the U.S. with its contracted vaccine doses much faster than previously anticipated, CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday, potentially helping President Biden towards his goal of 1.5 million vaccinations a day — though hospitals report having to throw out doses due to inadequate equipment and one leading syringe supplier warned that there may not be enough specialized equipment to allow vaccinators to use every dose.
Pfizer will be able to provide the U.S. with 200 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine — enough to immunize 100 million people — two months earlier than previously expected, Bourla told Bloomberg Tuesday.
Bourla said the company, along with partner BioNTech, will now be able to deliver 120 million doses in the first quarter, 20 million more than expected.
A change to the vaccine’s label, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Europe’s medicines regulator, permits the company to count the extra doses in each vial towards its overall quota.
Vaccine manufacturers commonly overfill vials to ensure healthcare providers have enough material to work with and specialized syringes are needed to make use of Pfizer’s extra doses, syringes the U.S. may not have in sufficient quantity.
The world’s largest syringe maker, Becton Dickinson and Co, told Reuters that the U.S. government’s push to extract more doses from each vial is driving a demand for these syringes that is is outstripping supply — its 2021 capacity is largely accounted for, it said — and the New York Times reports that many pharmacists are still struggling to extract every dose, even though it is possible.
Since starting its vaccination campaign in December, states have struggled to get doses in arms. Many warned that they lacked the infrastructure and logistical capacity to properly administer the rollout and were left without sufficient federal support once vaccines had arrived. After more than a dozen states complained about missing doses, the army general in charge of distributing vaccines said he made a mistake and simply apologized for the “miscommunication.” The U.S. is still a long way off Donald Trump’s promise of getting 20 million people vaccinated by the end of December (just over half the number of doses have been administered), but the influx of 200 million vaccines from Pfizer several months ahead of schedule will go a long way towards helping President Biden achieve his promise of 100 million vaccinations in his first hundred days.
What To Watch For
While vaccine manufacturers claim counting the extra doses in vials allows scarce supplies to be stretched, many on the ground worry that the “extra” doses will go unused. Tensions in Europe, where several manufacturers have also said they will not be able to fulfill contracts, are especially high, with some countries reportedly having to cancel appointments after receiving fewer vials than expected. The European Union is considering stricter export rules that could restrict supply of the vaccines outside the bloc.
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Exclusive: Scarce niche syringes complicate U.S. plan to squeeze more COVID shots from Pfizer vials (Reuters)
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