COVID-19

Are the authorities pushing for the Moderna vaccination because the doses are about to expire?

If you explain that the reduction in vaccine stocks is carried out according to the storage dates, the General Directorate of Health is urgently challenging Moderna, and affirms that no dose of the currently stored vaccine is affected by risk of expiration in the next two months . .
Question asked on December 27.

Good morning,

He asked us about several tweets ensuring that the authorities are highlighting the Moderna vaccine in the recall campaign to prevent doses from expiring.

Given that the High Health Authority (HAS) authorized its use as a booster vaccine at the beginning of November (conditioning it for the injection of half doses and recommending excluding those under 30 years of age), the Moderna vaccine has occupied an increasingly important place in the withdrawal campaign. In early December, he weighed about 10% of the daily booster doses. Since then, his injection ratio has grown steadily. Thus, during the last week, between December 20 and 27, Moderna represented between 45 and 50% of the booster injections each day (49% on December 27). In many vaccination sites, the vaccine is even the only one offered to those over 30 years of age. A situation that, therefore, would be due, according to Internet users, to a question of the expiration date.

At the beginning of December, Jean-Paul Hamon, general practitioner and honorary president of the Fédération des médecins de France, had already made similar comments: “Once again, the managers of the Ministry of Health are trying to put Moderna in bottles in the last minute, which will soon expire, ”he said on December 3 on Franceinfo. Contacted by CheckNews, the doctor said he did not have specific information to support his claim, explaining that his annoyance was related to the management of stocks by the authorities and, in particular, to the lack of doses of Pfizer.

In fact, city health professionals had ordered 3.2 million doses of Pfizer at the end of November, but they could only be delivered in early December in 2.4 million doses. The missing doses of Pfizer had been replaced by doses of Moderna. Jean-Paul Hamon specifies that from a health point of view, the two vaccines are “interchangeable” in the context of the recall campaign, but he justifies his spiel by explaining that Moderna is more restrictive for vaccinators due to its packaging. : “After opening, a vial of Pfizer requires seven injections in six hours, a vial of Moderna used as a booster, due to the half doses, requires 23 injections in about twenty hours. And for some professionals it is more difficult to find 23 patients than 7 “.

Increasing use

Before appearing widely in recent weeks in the recall campaign, Moderna had been used relatively lightly. To date, 27,060,300 doses produced by Moderna (2,706,030 vials with ten doses each) have been delivered to France (the last deliveries were made at the end of October). As of December 9, data from the Health Ministry showed a total of just 11,162,409 doses of Moderna administered since the beginning of the year, a use rate of just 41%, compared to nearly 87% for Pfizer.

Asked by CheckNews about the existence of a risk of expiration of the Moderna doses, and the possible impact it could have on the vaccination strategy, the General Directorate of Health (DGS) assures in the first place that “the choice of the Moderna vaccine [dans la campagne de rappel, ndlr] it was not guided by a risk of expiration of state stocks. The Moderna vaccine is a vaccine that has been shown to be effective and safe, so it is widely used. “

The DGS confirms, on the other hand, that, in general, the expiration date of the vaccines, in the vaccination logistics, is taken into account in the depopulation of the doses: “The conservation date is taken into account during the distribution of vaccines from the central stock in order to send vaccines with the closest expiration date as a priority “.

In an “urgent DGS” message on December 4 and addressed to the professionals in charge of vaccination, health authorities urged to monitor storage dates, but without mentioning Moderna in particular, and recommended: “Whatever the vaccine Check the expiration labels and the administration expiration dates on the vial carefully before any injection. We invite you to be extremely attentive to the expiration dates of the bottles that are delivered to you, as they can be very short. “

Extension of the useful life from seven to nine months.

However, according to the DGS, there would be no urgent need to “sell” Moderna’s stock, particularly since on 8 December the European Medicines Agency (EMA) extended the shelf life of the vaccine by two months (1). “Moderna’s laboratory has presented a variation accepted by the EMA, extending the shelf life between -25 ° C and -15 ° C of the vaccine from seven to nine months, including batches already produced,” explains the DGS. Information confirmed by the EMA to CheckNews. “To date, there are no Moderna vaccine vials stored between -25 ° C and -15 ° C affected by a risk of expiration in the next two months,” says the DGS.

Beyond the question of expiration dates, Moderna’s place in the recall campaign is mainly explained by the level of stocks. As CheckNews had already explained, Moderna doses are currently available in greater numbers than its competitor Pfizer / BioNTech. In a report to journalists in mid-December, the Ministry of Health reported on a central stock of “Spikevax” vaccines made up of 12.5 million doses, that is, three times the central stock of doses of “Comirnaty” (4 , 8 million). The authorities added that on that date 7.4 million doses of the first vaccine were available in the vaccination centers and municipal stocks (pharmacies, doctors, nurses, etc.) compared to 5.7 million doses of the second vaccine. .

Use both vaccines

During his hearing before the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the Scientific Council, strongly insisted on the fact that France would not have enough doses to carry out the withdrawal campaign that “on the condition that Let’s use the two existing vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, which also work, if not a little better, in booster doses. Otherwise, we will run out of doses to vaccinate the 26 million eligible people. “Before repeating:” One Once you are over 30, Moderna’s vaccine is the same as Pfizer’s, if we don’t use it, we won’t have enough doses in January because orders have run out and it’s very difficult to change them. People need to understand that if they have more 30-year-old Moderna works well and is very well tolerated, not a second option, but a first option, like the Pfizer vaccine. “

(1) The Pfizer vaccine had also benefited from a similar extension of its shelf life, from six to nine months. In an information letter in early October, Public Health France informed the establishments that store the vaccines that the batches could be kept for three months longer than the initially planned duration.

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