IU Health’s bonus dose now standard as Pfizer limits COVID vaccine shipments based on 6-dose vials

The IU Health pharmacy team that prepares the COVID-19 vaccine for its clinic in Monroe County is able to extract an extra sixth dose out of the 5-dose vaccine vials it gets from Pfizer.

“We get at least six doses out of every vial,” president of IU Health’s south central region Brian Shockney confirmed to the Square Beacon.

To accomplish the extraction of the extra dose requires a speciality syringe. Shockney said, “We have the needles.”

That is the same experience of many pharmacies across the country.

But the New York Times reported Friday that the sixth dose can’t be considered a bonus any longer.

According to the NYT report, the discovery in December that a sixth dose could be extracted from the 5-dose vials will now lead to less vaccine shipped by Pfizer.

According to the report: “Pfizer plans to count the surprise sixth dose toward its previous commitment of 200 million doses of Covid vaccine by the end of July and therefore will be providing fewer vials than once expected for the United States.”

Extraction of a sixth dose from a Pfizer vial will now be considered just par for the course.

As recently as Jan 3, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control description of the Pfizer vaccine read “5 doses per vial.”

By Jan. 6, 2021, the CDC description read “Up to 6 doses per vial.”

Monroe County Health administrator Penny Caudill told The Square Beacon that of the two available vaccines, the county’s clinic has received only the Moderna vaccine for distribution. That means the extra dose is not an issue for the county’s clinic.

Vaccination at either of the two sites in Monroe County is by appointment only and is currently limited to frontline healthcare workers and those who are 70 and older.

On Friday, Shockney pegged the local totals at 12,081 doses of vaccine out of 13,175 that have been allocated by the state, or 91.7 percent. The remaining 8.3 percent is still pending distribution.

IU Health has been distributing 600 to 700 vaccine shots a day according to Shockney. One day next week is scheduled for 900 vaccinations, Shockney said on Friday. That’s possible because IU Health continues to get the weekly shipments it needs, to cover the next week’s appointments, he said.

The limiting factor for the county’s distribution of COVID-19 vaccine continues to be the doses that are allocated to Indiana and then to each county in the state.

IU Health operates Bloomington’s local hospital, but is separate from Indiana University.

The university has asked that its Bloomington campus be certified by the state’s department of health as a public vaccine distribution site. But the university is not yet getting any vaccine to distribute. On Friday, Indiana University’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships Kirk White said, “I’m pretty comfortable that we could do between 500 and 1000 vaccinations that day, if we had the supply.”