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An infectious disease doctor in California receives the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday, Dec. 17. Photo: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty

Pfizer vaccine vials contain extra doses that could boost America's supply by up to 40%, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday.

Driving the news: The U.S. has 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to inoculate 50 million people but declined to buy more doses earlier this year. The vaccine is first being administrated to frontline health care workers and nursing home residents and staff.

  • Extra doses could expand the country's inventory, and help mitigate the possibility of demand eclipsing supply, Politico, which first reported the news, writes.

What they're saying: "At this time, given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable (the sixth, or possibly even a seventh) from each vial, pending resolution of the issue," the FDA tweeted Wednesday evening.

  • The agency explained it was working with Pfizer to determine “the best path forward."
  • But, but, but: "The amount of vaccine remaining in the multidose vial after removal of 5 doses can vary, depending on the type of needles and syringes used," Pfizer said in a statement.
  • "At this time, we cannot provide a recommendation on the use of the remaining amount of vaccine from each vial. Vaccinators need to consult their institution’s policies for the use of multidose vials."

The state of play: Pfizer's glass vials were expected to contain five doses, but pharmacists noticed enough for six to seven.

  • Federal health officials are telling states to use the extra doses — without contaminating across multiple vials — in an effort to meet demand as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the U.S.
  • The U.S. hit a record 300,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday.

Context: The Trump administration is negotiating with Pfizer to purchase additional doses, but the pharmaceutical company might not be able to provide more vaccines until summer 2021, per Politico.

  • Moderna, the only other company whose COVID-19 vaccine has been deemed safe and "highly effective" by the FDA, has agreed to provide doses for 200 million people by the end of June.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: CDC director maintains Pfizer booster recommendation for high-risk workers — CDC director approves Pfizer boosters, adds eligibility for high-risk workers — FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up.
  2. Health: America's mismatched COVID fears — Some experts see signs of hope as cases fall — WHO: Nearly 1 in 4 Afghan COVID hospitals shut after Taliban takeover — D.C. goes further than area counties with vaccine mandates.
  3. Politics: Bolsonaro isolating after health minister tests positive at UN summit — United Airlines says 97% of U.S. employees fully vaccinated — Mormon Church to mandate masks in temples.
  4. Education: Health care workers and teachers caught up in booster confusion — Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine — Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.