February 26, 2021

Covid-19 roundup: The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be safely stored at standard freezer temperatures, FDA says

Daily Briefing

    FDA says the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine can be stored for up to two weeks at temperatures achievable in typical pharmaceutical freezers, NIH announces plans to study long-term Covid-19 symptoms, and more.

    • The Ad Council, Business Roundtable, the CDC Foundation, the de Beaumont Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have joined together to form the Health Action Alliance, a joint initiative aimed at improving Covid-19 vaccination efforts and encouraging people to get the vaccine. The group will provide businesses with Covid-19 prevention and vaccination information, seek to improve health equity, and assist underserved communities that have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. So far, the group has announced plans to partner with Amazon, CVS Health, Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, Comcast, Walgreens, and Walmart (Minemyer, FierceHealthcare, 2/18; Gangitano, The Hill, 2/18).
    • CDC on Wednesday opened an online tool to test whether it can help U.S. residents find where they can get a Covid-19 vaccine by entering their address or ZIP code. CDC is running the tool, which is located at vaccinefinder.org, with help from Boston Children's Hospital and Castlight Health. The tool currently includes information on vaccine availability at more than 20,000 locations in four states, and if it's well received, the developers could expand it to include data on vaccination sites nationwide. The site doesn't allow users to book a vaccine appointment, but it can direct them to locations "where Covid-19 vaccine providers [are] that are open to the public," and show users "how to contact [vaccine providers], how to book an appointment, and try to show the daily inventory status so people are clear where there's vaccine and where there isn't," John Brownstein, a researcher at Boston Children's who runs the site, said (Palmer, STAT News, 2/24; Robbins/Stolberg, New York Times, 2/24; Simmons-Duffin, "Shots," NPR, 2/24).
    • HHS last week announced that it will no longer handle distribution of the Covid-19 antibody therapy bamlanivimab and the antibody cocktail casirivimab/imdevimab to state health departments because the drugs aren't in short supply anymore. HHS said health care providers should now order the therapies directly from AmerisourceBergen, which is the sole distributor of the drugs. Providers requesting the therapies still will be able to access them at no charge, HHS said (Anderson, Becker's Hospital Review, 2/23; AHA News, 2/22).
    • NIH on Tuesday announced it will lead a research program focused on patients experiencing long-term symptoms of Covid-19, who are often referred to as "Covid long-haulers." During a White House press briefing on Wednesday, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the White House's Covid-19 response, said there are "a lot of important questions that are now unanswered that we hope with this series of initiatives we will ultimately answer." The research program's goal is to identify the causes and develop treatments or prevention methods for long-term Covid-19 (Carbajal, Becker's Hospital Review, 2/24; Rodriguez, USA Today, 2/24).
    • Pfizer and BioNTech last week announced they had submitted data to FDA showing their Covid-19 vaccine can be stored for two weeks in a range between minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit and 5 degrees Fahrenheit, which are temperatures that typical pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators are able to handle. FDA's initial authorization of the vaccine required that it be stored at temperatures between minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Albert Bourla, Pfizer's CEO, the "new storage option would offer pharmacies and vaccination centers greater flexibility in how they manage their vaccine supply." FDA on Thursday announced it will allow the change (Hellmann, The Hill, 2/19; Furlong, Politico, 2/19; LaFraniere, New York Times, 2/23; FDA release, 2/25; FDA fact sheet, 2/25).
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