The US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which is manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech, now considers each vial contains six doses compared to five previously.
The difficulty in obtaining that sixth dose in practice means many countries are at loggerheads with Pfizer and facing a drop in supply.
Until recently, each vial of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine was considered to officially contain five doses.
After being thawed, the contents of each vial are diluted with 1.8 ml of saline solution, creating a total of 2.25 ml of injectable solution. With each dose 0.3 ml, in theory there are just over seven doses.
But theory and practice are different. Medical personnel are unable to measure so precisely the doses to get seven doses they can inject into people.
But the found they could — with the right equipment — reliably get six doses out of the vials.
Both EU and US regulators now consider that the vials contain six doses and have authorised the use of the sixth dose.
However the European Medicines Agency noted that this sixth dose depends on the availability of specific syringes.
Pfizer has revised higher its production target for this year from 1.3 billion doses to 2 billion. While part of that reflects plans to further increase output, it also reflects the effect of the label change on vials.
Pfizer said its contracts specify the delivery of a certain number of vaccine doses and not vials.
This means customers are now receiving fewer vials than they did before regulators approved the change.
But in order to obtain that sixth dose medical a special syringe is required with a low “dead space”. The dead space is the amount of the product left in the syringe when the plunger is completely pushed down