The Pfizer vaccine shelf life has been extended on several occasions since the outbreak of Covid-19. While the National Department of Health has assured the public that the jab’s shelf life can be safely extended.

Pfizer vaccines shelf life

“Vaccine, like other medical products, is produced and maintained differently from food manufacturing.

“You can extend the shelf life of vaccines through conducting what is called stability study, without necessarily recalling the products,” explained the department’s spokesperson Foster Mohale.

Mohale said the Pfizer vaccine shelf life had been extended on several occasions since the outbreak of Covid-19.

“What is important is to comply with the storage requirements, which is exactly what the department has been doing,” he added.

Mohale explained that its non-disclosure agreement with Pfizer prohibits the department from commenting on the value of the doses.

Wits University Faculty of Health Sciences Dean and Professor of Vaccinology Prof Shabir Madhi says it’s not uncommon to increase vaccine shelf life.

“The expiry date can be extended provided the company demonstrates the stability of its product beyond a period when it was due to expire,” said Madhi.

“This is not uncommon; however, it is something the company would have to undertake before Sahpra can provide approval.

Vaccine drive halted

Madhi reports that South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine drive has largely halted owing to “very little appetite for vaccines among communities”.

But, South Africa is also past the emergency period when the infection rate skyrocketed during the first two years of the pandemic.

“The reason why it no longer poses such a massive threat despite modest vaccine coverage is because of the extensive infection-induced immunity, which we appreciate provides good protection against severe disease as well,” said Madhi.

But Madhi says complacency around the vaccine is justified because the virus is in an endemic phase.

However, efforts to inoculate high-risk patients should continue.

SAHPRA said it would not be commenting on the process at this stage.