Extension of vaccine shelf life not unique, health officials explain

Pan American Health Or­ganisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) country representative Dr Erica Wheeler is assuring the public that the Pfizer vaccine, which has received an extended shelf life, is still safe. 

Dr Wheeler was speaking at the Ministry of Health’s media conference on Wednesday.

“It has nothing to do with any safety risk when we extend the shelf life of a vaccine. This is quite common. So the decision on the extension of the shelf life of the Pfizer vaccine from six to nine months, this is based on a review of the data by the WHO and the European Medicines Agency and by the Office of Vaccines Research and Review of the Centre for Biologic Evaluation and Research as well as the US Food and Drug Administration. So this is quite a robust recommendation,” she said.

Furthermore, the PAHO/WHO rep went on to note that the jabs are being stored at very specific temperatures and are being handled with care to ensure that they remain viable.

The Pfizer shot initially had a shelf life of six months from the date of production. However, this was extended to nine months by the US FDA.

Trinidad and Tobago received a donation of 305,370 Pfizer vaccines from the United States on August 11.

A few thousand unopened shots were expected to expire in November but this will not occur until February.

Meanwhile, PAHO’s biological products specialist Dr Maria Luz Pombo said a multiagency approach creates fair oversight over the decision.

“The decision is made based on the evidence of the stability data that is generated by the manufacturers and as part of the broader submission procedure that they agree with the respective authorities to grant and to oversight the quality of this product,” she said.

She added that health officials are tasked with labelling these vaccines properly to track their impending expiration accurately. 

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