Is Britain throwing away doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine?

Is Britain throwing away doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine? Regulators confirm vials sent to the UK contain an extra 2.5 doses each

  • Diluting the vials means there are seven and a half doses contained in each
  • Britain’s regulator said extra doses were provided in case of spills and wastage
  • But it did not say whether any leftover liquids were being used
  • Are you one of the people administering the vaccine? Get in touch: [email protected] 

Every vial of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shipped to the UK contains at least two extra doses which may not be being used, raising fears the NHS is throwing away scarce supplies of the crucial jab.

Britain’s medical regulator says every vial – the small glass container which holds the liquid vaccine – contains five doses of the jab, administered in 0.3ml shots. 

But it admitted that once the vaccine is diluted before being given to patients the vial holds as much as 2.25ml – enough for seven and a half doses.  

Pfizer claims it packs the vials with extra doses in case the vaccine spills in transit or it gets stuck inside the syringe when it is administered. 

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed to MailOnline that ‘small’ amounts of the vaccine were going unused.

But it insisted ‘additional product is not being wasted’ because the extra liquid was never intended to be used and is only there as a back up.

The MHRA could not say whether doctors and nurses were administering any leftover doses to patients.

The doses, if used, could boost the number of Pfizer vaccine’s available by 40 per cent, and mean an extra 320,000 people could be inoculated with the 800,000 delivered this month alone. 

It could also mean up to 16million more people could be vaccinated using the Pfizer jab once the UK receives its total order of 40million doses. 

Pharmacists in the US are already using the extra portions for patients, after its regulator approved the extra doses to be administered.

Each vial could contain two extra doses of the vaccine, it has been revealed today


Almost 140,000 Britons have been vaccinated against coronavirus in the first seven days of the roll out, officials claimed today amid mounting pressure on Number 10 to publish the numbers.

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said 137,897 people have had Pfizer/BioNTech’s jab so far, including 108,000 in England, 18,000 in Scotland, 7,897 in Wales and 4,000 in Northern Ireland.

Mr Zahawi — who was only able to provide precise figures for Wales — said this was a ‘really good start’ and promised more people would get the jab when more centres opened. 

Department of Health bosses later repeated Mr Zahawi’s claim and failed to provide exact counts for anywhere except Wales. Officials insisted the tally was ‘provisional and subject to change’. Matt Hancock said: ‘This is just the start.’

The UK’s largest ever vaccination programme began on December 8, with the Health Secretary promising ‘millions’ would get the jab before the end of the year in hope of finally ending the pandemic. 

But at the current speed it will take another six weeks for one million people to get vaccinated. 

When each vial arrives at a doctors surgery or vaccination centre it contains 0.45ml of the Pfizer jab, instructions released by the MHRA.

This must be mixed with 1.8ml of a sodium chloride solution – salt dissolved in water – before it can be administered.

It is normal practice for a vaccine to be mixed with a solution before it is administered. 

Because the injection is delivered in 0.3ml doses, the 2.25ml of liquid can theoretically provide seven and a half shots of the vaccine.   

Almost 140,000 people have already received their first of two injections of the jab, the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi claimed yesterday. 

American pharmacy expert Erin Fox, from the University of Utah, told Politico it was normal for manufacturers to overfill vials to safeguard against spills and waste.

‘It’s pretty unusual to have a full extra dose or more though – but it does seem to be there!,’ she said. 

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons today that as many as 200 sites in the UK are already delivering the vaccine ‘bringing hope to communities over the coming days’. 

‘And I know everybody would be as thrilled as I am every time they’re contacted by a friend or a loved one getting the jab,’ he said.

‘It was a wonderful sight to see the global map of vaccine deployment with the UK proudly standing out as the sight of the first vaccinations. 

‘It’s a huge logistical challenge, but the vaccine offers us promise of a better year ahead and until the great endeavour of deployment reaches enough people to make this country safe we must keep doing what it takes to protect our NHS and protect those we love.’

The US-based Food and Drug Adminsitration said yesterday that extra doses left in the vials of the Pfizer vaccine could be used.

A spokesman told Politico: ‘Given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable.’

The US Government is yet to formally announce the update to its guidance, although Pfizer was informed of the change yesterday.

The UK has ordered 40million doses of the vaccine – enough to inoculate a third of the country – which are all expected to have arrived by next year.

It became the first country in the world to start vaccinating against the virus last week, after the jab got the green light from regulators.

It is expected that the Oxford coronavirus vaccine could be approved in the coming days, adding another 100million doses to the UK’s arsenal for beating the virus.

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