Millions of COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed across the country, and some hospitals have found that they have more Pfizer doses than they had expected.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Leo Li said that some people who had previously committed to getting the vaccine changed their minds at the last minute for a host of reasons.
But once the Pfizer vials have been thawed and diluted, they have to be used within six hours.
"They offered it to office staff for our doctors, but they also offered it to local police departments and fire departments so none of that would go to waste," said Dr. Li.
Other hospitals also found that they could get as many as two extra doses out of each vial, and the Food and Drug Administration said those doses should be used.
It posted the following on Twitter:
"Given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable (the sixth, or possibly even a seventh) from each vial, pending resolution of the issue."
There is some controversy about who should be receiving the extra doses.
A social media post from a non-frontline worker in Riverside showed a vaccination card with Riverside Community Hospital as the listed clinic, and a caption that read in part, "I’m so happy."
The post generated some anger online.
The hospital confirmed that some doses had been given to non-frontline healthcare workers. It released this statement:
"Redlands Community Hospital administered its allotment of Pfizer vaccines to its frontline physicians, healthcare workers and support staff per California Department of Public Health guidelines.
After physicians and staff who expressed interest in the vaccine were administered, there were several doses left.
Because the reconstituted Pfizer vaccine must be used within hours or be disposed of, several doses were administered to non-front line healthcare workers."
It’s not clear how those people were selected to receive the vaccine. Dr. Li said that it is up to hospitals to decide what to do with any extra doses.
"As long as the vaccine’s out there, we hate to see it go to waste, so they have been offered to members of our community," he said.
"I know folks have had some problems with that from an ethical standpoint, but the flip side of that if you don’t use it, it gets tossed," Dr. Li added.