SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The local Pfizer COVID vaccine supply is getting a boost -- in terms of how much vaccine can be squeezed out of each vial -- without the need of a special syringe.
Soon after the government approved the Pfizer vaccine in December, pharmacists discovered that a small amount in every 5-dose vial shipped, amounted to a full additional dose. Getting that dose would be tricky. The sixth dose can be easily discarded, as extra vaccine in each dose, becomes trapped in the small dead space near the tip in regular syringes, according to Dr. Will Tseng, who heads the local COVID vaccine program for Kaiser Permanente.
So Dr. Tseng's team decided from the beginning to make retrieving the extra dose a priority.
"We were very diligent ... about our training for safety and quality reasons," said Dr. Tseng.
They zeroed in on the smallest syringe they had, the '25 Gauge.' The small size minimizes vaccine left in the dead space.
A team of technicians and pharmacists are then on-hand throughout the process, making sure the measurements are precise, from the mixing of the vaccine with a dilutant solution to the retrieval for each dose.
"We are getting six per vial without any question and sometimes we can even get seven ... We treat this as liquid gold, so we don't waste a single drop," said Dr. Tseng.
Experts nationwide have said getting the extra dose requires a special syringe in short supply, a low dead-volume syringe. Last week, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act, which includes ramping up production of that syringe.
Dr. Tseng says he'll look at that syringe to see if it performs better, adding if producing the syringe helps other facilities more easily retrieve the extra dose, that's good news.
"It's the right direction, to increase supply available. It's a big percentage, a 20% increase in supply. If we can do that in huge numbers, that's what we have to do," said Dr. Tseng.
Sharp Heath Care, Scripps Health and UCSD Health tell ABC 10News they're also able to retrieve that extra dose.
As for the the Moderna vaccine, there is less of the ‘extra’ vaccine in each vial.
Dr. Tseng says they occasionally will get one or two extra doses out of the 10-dose vials.