The jab can safely be kept at between 2C and 8C for up to a month (31 days), the regulator said in an update published on Monday, versus the five days that had been recommended until now.
Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine can be stored at normal fridge temperatures after coming out of a deep-freezer for much longer than was initially recommended, the European Medicines Agency has said.
The announcement will address one of the major drawbacks of Pfizer vaccine, that it needed to be administered soon after being removed from expensive ultra-low temperature freezers.
This had limited where the jab could be offered, since poorer countries and remote areas often lack the network of deep freezers required to store the jab. It has also made the transport and distribution of the vaccine more complicated and expensive.
The updated advice is likely to result in fewer vials being thrown away.
The decision was taken by the EMA’s human medicines committee after Pfizer and BioNTech submitted “additional stability study data” to the Amsterdam-based agency – which was forced to relocate from London following Brexit.
“Increased flexibility in the storage and handling of the vaccine is expected to have a significant impact on planning and logistics of vaccine roll-out in EU Member States,” the EMA said.
The UK’s equivalent of the EMA, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), still gives the vaccine a maximum shelf life of up to five days in a fridge.
The Independent contacted the MHRA for comment on whether a review of their guidelines would take place in light of the EMA decision.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The EU agreed a massive contract extension with the same company this month for a potential 1.8 billion doses through to 2023.