29 May 2021

Storage rule change extends fridge time for Covid-19 vaccine

3:45 pm on 29 May 2021

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine has been given the official tick to allow it to be used after longer storage times at normal fridge temperature.

Vials being filled with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on a production line at the Delpharm plant in Saint-Remy-sur-Avre, northern France.

Vials being filled with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on a production line in northern France. Photo: Photo by - / Delpharm / AFP

Medsafe has approved changes that extend the useful refrigerated shelf life of an unopened vial of the vaccine from 5 days to 31.

It follows new data from Pfizer about vaccine storage.

Once at fridge temperature, the vial can't be returned to the freezer and must be disposed of after 31 days or on the vial's expiration date.

The change takes effect immediately, and vaccines distributed from next Wednesday will have updated labelling.

Covid-19 Response minister Chris Hipkins said today it was helpful for the vaccine programme, meant it would be easier to transport and would make it more accessible.

The vaccine still needs to be kept at ultra-low temperatures in the longer term, for up to six months.

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