Pfizer vaccine can be kept in fridge for far longer than previously thought, EMA says

18 May 2021, 08:14 | Updated: 18 May 2021, 12:01

It was previously advised that the vaccine be kept at between -70C and -80C until a few days before use
It was previously advised that the vaccine be kept at between -70C and -80C until a few days before use. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine can be stored in a fridge for much longer than previously recommended, according to the European Union's drugs regulator.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said an unopened thawed vial can be stored in a fridge between 2C and 8C from five days to one month.

It was previously advised that the vaccine be kept at between -70C and -80C until a few days before use when it could be transferred to a standard medical fridge.

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The agency said increased flexibility in the storage and handling of the jab is expected to have a "significant impact" on the planning and logistics of vaccine roll-out in EU member states.

It added that the change in advice was approved "following assessment of additional stability study data submitted to EMA by the marketing authorisation holder."

It comes just days after research suggested a 12-week gap between Pfizer doses significantly increases the immune response in older people.

The antibody response in people aged over 80 is three and a half times greater in those who have the second dose after 12 weeks, compared with a three-week interval, the study led by the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with Public Health England, found.

BioNTech said on May 10 there was no evidence its jab needs updating to protect against variants.

The UK government has ordered an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine as part of its plans for a vaccination booster programme this autumn.

It is thought the most vulnerable groups of people, including the elderly, will be offered another jab before next winter.

The extra order brings the total number of Pfizer doses ordered by the UK to 100 million.