|A health worker prepares a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shot for children in Đà Nẵng City on Tuesday. — VNA/VNS Photo Văn Dũng|
HÀ NỘI — The National Institute for Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) has issued a notification on the expiry extension of a further seven batches of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed to local health authorities throughout the country.
These batches – with lot numbers 126001, 123001, 128002, 129001, PCA0006, PCA0017, PCA0021 – will be usable for an additional three months compared to the expiry dates on the packaging/labels, according to the notice.
Previously in early December, two batches No. 124001 and 123002, with a total of over 2.9 million doses as part of the country’s deal for 51 million shots with Pfizer, also had their expiry date effectively changed from November 30 on the labels to February next year.
It is not at the moment how many shots are in the seven batches and how many shots go to which locality.
This practice of extending shelf life for Pfizer shots is endorsed by health authorities worldwide, including US FDA, EMA, and WHO, provided that the ultra low-temperature storage conditions of the vaccines are guaranteed, however, the communication from the health authorities was a little late and after-the-fact, resulting in widespread confusion among the public, especially strong negative responses from parents as Việt Nam is using Pfizer vaccines for children aged 12-17.
Vietnamese health minister Nguyễn Thanh Long, UNICEF Việt Nam, and WHO Việt Nam, along with other experts have all had to put out statements to allay the concerns of the public.
Pfizer Việt Nam said in a statement to Việt Nam News that: “Pfizer has gathered stability data on multiple batches of the COVID-19 vaccine made across its manufacturing network globally and has determined that sufficient data are now available to extend the expiration time to nine months. This provides pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and mass vaccination centres greater flexibility in managing and maintaining vaccine distribution and supply.”
“No changes have been made to the vaccine itself to enable the extension of expiry date. Therefore, the safety and efficacy remains unchanged,” the statement reads.
NIHE, the primary holding place for vaccines imported into Việt Nam, has multiple refrigerators capable of keeping the mRNA vaccines at deep freeze temperatures before they get distributed to localities.
In the latest notification, the institute asks health workers to provide sufficient consultation for people who are about to receive the injections as well as parents/guardians of the children to be vaccinated, to clear up potential misunderstandings regarding the expiration.
“Local Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) receive and administer the allocated vaccines immediately, to ensure effective use of the vaccines and complete the vaccination within the shortest timeframe possible,” the notification reads.
According to the health ministry, 7.356 million doses of vaccines have been given for children aged 12-17 years old nationwide, with 5.881 million being first doses and nearly 1.475 million being second doses.
First-dose coverage in this age group has hit 64.4 per cent, while the two-dose coverage is at 16.2 per cent. — VNS