SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine vial contains an "overfill," with vials having enough supply for six doses, instead of five. However, not all syringes provided by the federal government allow for all six doses to be used. Hospitals and local health departments on the Central Coast are dealing with this issue by either having to use separate syringes or toss small amounts of every vial.
KION is working to contact all of the area's vaccine providers, but some are confirming the syringe problem is present.
In Santa Cruz County, most recently at Wednesday's clinic in Watsonville, the health department was provided with 3 mL syringes that are not efficient enough to extract six 1 mL doses from the six mL vial. This means there are small amounts of vaccine left in each vial, often one-third of a dose, that get discarded.
"It is pretty typical to have A one-third dose in one vial and a one-third of a dose in another. Ideally you can combine them all in one dose, but that is not really allowed. That is not a practice because of infection control. So we do have to throw out extra doses if there is not enough in that vial," Santa Cruz Deputy Health Office Dr. David Ghilarducci said.
The syringes are sent to providers through the federal government's vaccine program.
Dr. Ghilarducci says 1 mL syringes are needed to extract all six doses from the Pfizer vial, but like everything else, they are in limited supply. He adds that this could be a larger issue in the future because the state is going to start counting each vial from Pfizer as containing six doses. If the federally-supplied syringes sent to each county (or provider) are only able to extract five doses from the vial, then the vaccine allocation they are receiving is less than reported.
In Monterey, a Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) spokesperson tells KION they sometimes deal with this issue as well. It depends on the type of syringe they are provided with, and they are currently seeing an improvement.
A Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) spokesperson tells KION that they are using their own syringes and are able to extract six doses from every Pfizer vial.
This is a developing story.