Pharmacy-led vaccination sites can extend the shelf life of certain batches of the Pfizer Covid vaccine nearing expiry, NHS England has said.

In a letter sent to pharmacy and PCN-led vaccination sites today, NHS England said that 20 batches of the Pfizer vaccine – known as Comirnaty – can be used until an extended post-thaw expiry date.

The letter said: ‘We are writing to notify you that after discussions with Pfizer Inc. and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), certain post-thaw expiry dates of unpunctured and undamaged Comirnaty® (30microgram/dose) vials as detailed in this letter may be extended from 31 days to 45 days.’

Stocks ‘nearing expiry should be the priority’ as ‘per normal practice’, it added.

Following ‘stability assessments’, Pfizer has confirmed that the batches’ ‘indicate no impact to product quality through extending the post-thaw expiry date of thawed vaccines from 31 days to 45 days’, NHS England said. 

The MHRA is reassured ‘that there is no detrimental impact on the safety, quality or efficacy of the identified vaccine’ and has ‘no objection’ to the proposed expiry date extension, it added.

NHS England asked clinical colleagues ‘responsible for the safe storage and handling of Comirnaty vaccines in their possession’ to amend the post-thaw expiry dates in line with its letter.

‘This extended shelf life will enable more patients to access these critical and life-saving vaccines over the coming days’, it said.

Only 20 batches of vaccines used for adults and adolescents in 30-microgram doses are included in the measures, the letter set out.

Pulse has asked NHS England to confirm how many doses are affected, how many GP vaccine sites are using the batches and why the change has been implemented.

Last month, the national protocol for the Pfizer vaccine was updated to extend the frozen vaccine’s shelf-life from six to nine months.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister website, Pulse.