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Banner Health finding ways to stretch COVID-19 vaccine in Arizona

Posted at 3:52 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 17:52:24-05

PHOENIX — When it first rolled out, the label on the Pfizer vaccine said there were five doses per vial. It turns out there are actually six and we’re now learning getting that extra dose can be a real challenge with a standard syringe.

Samantha Chapman, Ambulatory Pharmacy Operations Supervisor for the Banner vaccination site at the Arizona State Fair Grounds is explaining how they’re now getting more doses from Pfizer vials.

“This is a normal syringe, there is a large amount of left-over liquid, compared to this syringe where there’s just a tiny bubble on the top,” said Chapman pointing at end of two slightly different syringes.

It all comes down to something called dead space, a space between the needle and the plunger that will retain small amounts of the vaccine after the shot is given.

“You could have an average dead space amount that results in losing a full dose once you draw up five syringes,” said Chapman.

That’s where the new syringe gets the job done. A narrower plunger pushes out nearly all of the leftover vaccine. By using three normal syringes and three low dead space syringes, Banner has bumped up vial doses from five to six consistent doses.

“This is a way we can stretch what’s already been created, we don’t have to wait for Pfizer or Moderna to produce more product,” said Chapman.

Like other states, Arizona’s on hand supply remains tight. The Governor recently writing to members of Congress to urge the Biden administration for increased doses. More than 700,000 of which have already been given out across the state.

“To say we had a twenty percent increase in vaccine just by virtue of using this needle and syringe was amazing,” said Chief Clinical Services Officer for Banner Health Nancy Zismann. "Every drop counts, and we want to vaccinate as many as we possibly can."