The Czech Republic has allowed squeezing an extra dose from COVID-19 vaccine vials supplied by Pfizer and BioNTech, taking advantage of an extra reserve amount put into the vials by the maker, the Health Ministry said.
Under standard rules, five doses can be drawn from each vial of the vaccine, but experts have said it is possible to obtain sixth or even seventh dose from the vials.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš had asked the European Commission earlier this week to allow using the extra amount.
The vaccine, made by Pfizer of the United States and the German biotech startup BioNTech, is the only one to win EU approval so far.
The Health Ministry said in a ruling dated 29 December that it was, in divergence from the vaccine’s EU registration, temporarily allowing to extract the extra dose, if there is enough material for it in the vials and under the condition that the regular volume of each dose is strictly observed.
“With regard to the limited amount of accessible doses…the ministry allows using one vial of this medical product for up to six people in order to increase the number of people who can be protected by vaccination with this product from the consequences of COVID-19,” the ministry said.
It said that the extra dose must be available in an individual vial, meaning that material from more vials cannot be mixed.
The Czech Republic, like other EU countries, started vaccinations on 27 December, but supplies are short for the time being.
Italian regulators have already approved the drawing of six doses, overriding EMA guidance for the EU as a whole.
Similar approvals have been issued by regulators in the United States, Britain, Switzerland and Israel – which all made an earlier start to their vaccination campaigns.