Walgreens gave hundreds of thousands of Americans their second doses of Pfizer‘s Covid vaccine a week late, flouting U.S. guidelines and confusing customers, the New York Times has revealed.
Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be given in two doses, spread three weeks apart, while Moderna‘s is given three weeks apart.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that second doses can be delayed up to six weeks if its not possible for someone to get their booster on time.
In an effort to ease the challenges of scheduling first and follow-up appointments for hundred of thousands of Americans, Walgreens put them all on the same dosing schedule as a matter of course, regardless of which vaccine they were getting
But it never announced that policy, which was in direct conflict with health officials’ recommendations.
Walgreens is now amending that practice, after customers complained and the CDC asked the chain to stop giving its second Pfizer doses on the incorrect timeline.
Walgreens gave thousands of Americans their second doses of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine a week late
‘In many states, our stores carry COVID-19 vaccines from multiple manufacturers simultaneously, as determined by federal and state allocation,’ Walgreens said in a statement.
‘We are automatically scheduling patients’ second doses to occur a minimum of 28 days following their first dose to ensure that no dose is administered earlier than the authorized intervals and patients are able to complete the series vaccination.
‘We’re continuing to work on system enhancements to our scheduler to account for multiple manufacturers with different dose #2 schedules to automatically account for scheduling patients’ second dose either at day 21 or day 28. We plan to have an enhancement to our vaccine scheduler by the end of this week that will now allow individuals to schedule within three week timeframe for the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.’
Walgreens announced on March 9 that it had administered five million doses of COVID-19 vaccination since it began giving them in December.
It’s not clear how many of those vaccinations were Pfizer shots, but it’s safe to assume hundreds of thousands of people have gotten the firm’s vaccines from Walgreens – on the wrong schedule.
Walgreens has been caught out on a number of scheduling and technological missteps.
Last month, the company had to apologize for a ‘technical glitch’ in its online scheduler system, which was booking second appointments for customers, but never actually assigning them a time for their first doses.
It resolved the issue on March 18, according to a company statement.
But the most recent issue goes beyond a ‘glitch.’
Walgreens intentionally implemented a policy to ensure that no second doses were scheduled too early, instead automatically booking all booster shots at least four weeks after the initial doses, the company said.
That disregards the unknowns and potential risks of delaying doses longer than recommended.
Dr Anthony Fauci warned Monday that people who have only had one dose of Covid vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer would have only ‘tenuous’ protection against variants
UK regulators allow second doses to be delayed by up to 12 weeks.
However, U.S. health officials have stated in no uncertain terms that they do not recommend this practice.
The CDC has issued guidance permitting delays, but due to extenuating circumstances.
Real-world data now suggests that a single dose of either the Moderna vaccine or Pfizer vaccine will reduce COVID-19 infection risks by about 80 percent two weeks after the first shot is given.
But the firms have no data on how long that protection lasts, or how the longer gap period might impact the efficacy of the booster dose.
Dr Anthony Fauci acknowledged on Monday that there is not a ‘right or wrong’ dosing schedule, but added that he is wary of the unknowns.
‘There are are different approaches and different opinions,’ he said during a Monday White House Covid Response Team briefing.
‘We have been concerned, and still are, that when you look at the level of protection after one dose, you can say is 80 percent, but it is somewhat of a tenuous 80 percent, because the level of, for example, neutralizing antibodies against the coronavirus, when you just leave it at one dose, the question is, how long does it last?’
Walgreens will now book vaccinations with the Pfizer shot at the recommended three-week interval, the company said, but it comes after customers were left baffled and concerned that they weren’t getting their shots on time.