By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine may work well as a single dose and could be stored at much more reasonable temperatures, according to internal company information and a peer-reviewed study released on Friday.

A group of researchers found the BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech to be 85% efficacious 15 to 28 days after the first dose among healthcare workers vaccinated at a single center in Israel. Currently, Pfizer/BioNTech call for administering a second dose 21 days after the first. If just one shot is this effective, that could speed vaccine administration.

“Our data show substantial early reductions in SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptomatic COVID-19 rates following first vaccine dose administration. Early reductions of COVID-19 rates provide support of delaying the second dose in countries facing vaccine shortages and scarce resources so as to allow higher population coverage with a single dose,” the authors concluded. “Longer follow-up to assess long-term effectiveness of a single dose is needed to inform a second dose delay policy.”

Meanwhile, Pfizer/BioNTech announced they were submitting new information to the FDA and asking for an update to the emergency use authorization (EUA) the agency issued in December for the BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccine. Under that EUA, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine must be stored at bitter cold temperatures (as low as -112°F). This requires time-consuming handling techniques and unusual equipment.

These shots travel in a thermal container that can be used as temporary storage for up to 30 days by refilling with dry ice every five days. Before mixing with a saline diluent, the shot can be refrigerated for up to five days at between 36°F and 46°F. Now, the companies believe their vaccine also can be stored at much more reasonable temperatures (between -13°F and 5°F, settings common to pharmaceutical refrigerators and freezers) for two weeks. Making the vaccine easier to transport and store is yet another way to speed administration.

Besides storage and supply issues, healthcare workers who are taking the COVID-19 vaccine also have to be mindful of possible side effects. In the upcoming April issue of Hospital Access Management, author Stacey Kusterbeck will report on how onsite hospital registrars have been working short-staffed throughout the pandemic, with some staff working remotely and others forced into quarantine after virus exposure. Now, many staff are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine — but not all at once. Be sure to check out the issue to learn what staggered staffing in patient access departments may mean for other areas of healthcare facilities as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available.

For all the latest Relias Media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, click here. To fulfill continuing education requirements, download a copy of The COVID-19 Handbook: Navigating the Future of Healthcare.