Six instead of five doses to be drawn from each BioNTech vaccine vial

Six instead of five doses to be drawn from each BioNTech vaccine vial

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has given its approval to the practice of drawing six instead of five vaccine doses from each vial of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19. The change means that 20 percent more people can be vaccinated. 

Six doses means protection for up to 5,5 million more people

Doctors within the European Union can now take an extra vaccine dose from each BioNTech / Pfizer vial, effectively increasing the available doses in the EU by 20 percent. The EMA’s decision was announced by the German Ministry of Health on Friday afternoon, and is effective immediately.

The EMA said its medicine committee had recommended an update to the vaccine’s product information, to state that each vial contains six doses. Germany, which has so far secured 55,8 million doses of the vaccine through joint EU orders, could gain up to 11 million doses with the sixth dose - and thus protect up to five and a half million more people against the virus. 

EMA initially opposed the practice

Pharmaceutical companies usually pack more vaccine than is necessary in each vial so that the minimum dose can be guaranteed even if some vaccine is spilled or otherwise cannot be used. Up until now, anything left over after five vaccine doses had to be thrown away.

Shortly before the vaccine was approved in the EU, BioNTech advised the EMA of the possibility of drawing a sixth dose, but the EU authority decided against this option, pointing out that it would require high-quality syringes and incredibly careful dosing. However, amid sharp criticism and allegations that valuable quantities of the vaccine were being wasted, the EMA changed its position. The practice of drawing six doses is already permitted in the US, UK and other countries.  

On the morning of January 8, the EU commission also signed another contract for a further 300 million doses of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine. 75 million doses should be available as early as the second quarter of 2021. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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