May 3, 2021 - Health

Pfizer to offer smaller shipments of COVID vaccine

A provider prepares to deliver a shot into an arm.

Pfizer is preparing distribution with the federal government for a smaller 3-tray, 25-vial pack size for COVID-19 vaccines. Photo: by Patrick Pleul-picture alliance/Getty Images

Pfizer will begin distributing smaller packages of COVID-19 vaccine to states by the end of May to reduce potential waste.

Why it matters: As public demand for vaccine teeters, health officials see smaller clinical settings as the next step in vaccinating Americans who haven’t sought out a shot already.

  • The company's smaller packaging can help improve distribution, Tanya Alcorn, Pfizer's vice president for global supply chain, tells Axios.

How it works: Pfizer is preparing to distribute packages of 450 doses, alongside its current packages of 1,170 doses. Roughly 4.5 million doses per week will come in the smaller packages.

  • The company also expects to have a "ready-to-use" vaccine that won't require dilution and can be stored -20ºC by the end of 2021.

The big picture: Though the extent of vaccine waste due to lack of demand is unknown, state health officials have raised concerns with the federal government, said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • "Having a smaller minimum order quantity of course means that you’re going to have less wastage especially in those rural areas," she said.

The smaller packages can also help make vaccines available at physician offices, religious congregations or recreation centers, where people can make on-the-spot decisions to get vaccinated, said Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

  • "It’s difficult to do that when products are shipped in 10-dose vials or even sometimes five-dose vials where you puncture the rubber stopper, the pharmaceutical inside expires within a period of six to 12 hours if it’s not fully used," Stack said.
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