The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine can be stored at fridge temperature for much longer than previously recommended, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Previous advice was the vaccine needs to be kept at an ultra-low temperature, between minus 70C and minus 80C, until a few days before use when it can be transferred to a standard medical fridge.
The EMA said in a statement it had extended the approved storage period for an unopened thawed vial when kept in a fridge between 2C and 8C from five days to one month.
“The change was approved following assessment of additional stability study data submitted to EMA by the marketing authorisation holder,” the agency said.
It added increased flexibility in the storage and handling of the vaccine is expected to have a “significant impact” on the planning and logistics of vaccine roll-out in EU member states.
It comes just days after research suggested a 12-week gap between Pfizer doses significantly increases the immune response in older people.
The antibody response in people aged over 80 is three and a half times greater in those who have the second dose after 12 weeks, compared with a three-week interval, the study led by the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with Public Health England, found.
BioNTech said on May 10th there was no evidence its jab needs updating to protect against variants.
According to data published on the Government's Covid-19 Data Hub, almost 1.3 million doses of the Pfizer jab had been administered in the State up to May 11th, making up the largest portion of vaccines distributed here to date.
At that same point, over 553,000 doses of AstraZeneca had been administered, followed by just under 91,000 Moderna jabs and 550 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine.