Moderna Wins Approval To Ship Fuller Vials Of Vaccine

by Christina Marfice
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty

Federal regulators announced that they’re allowing Moderna to ship vaccine vials that are 50 percent more full, further shoring up the nation’s vaccine supply

Just one day after a manufacturing error destroyed up to 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, there’s some good news for the U.S. rollout and the national supply: On Thursday, federal regulators approved a plan to start putting 15 doses in each vial of Moderna’s vaccine, rather than the 10 doses that were being shipped previously.

This decision means Moderna will almost certainly meet its obligations to supply the U.S. with hundreds of millions of doses in the coming months, and could even speed up those deliveries. Moderna had promised to deliver a total of 200 million doses by the end of May, and 300 million by the end of July — a total of enough to fully vaccinate 150 million people with the two-dose shot.

“Both of these revisions positively impact the supply of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, which will help provide more vaccine doses to communities and allow shots to get into arms more quickly. Ultimately, more vaccines getting to the public in a timely manner should help bring an end to the pandemic more rapidly,” the FDA said in a statement announcing its official decision.

The FDA had already signaled its approval of the 15-dose vials before making it official, so Moderna had already been manufacturing them ahead of the decision. In a statement, the company said it expects to begin shipping the fuller vials within the next few weeks. The FDA also gave its approval for vaccine distributors to extract an 11th dose from the 10-dose vials if they are able to. While that means less vaccine will be wasted, the downside to the news is that extracting every last drop from Moderna’s vials requires a special syringe, which has been in short supply now for months. Health officials say without more of these syringes, they may even only be able to get 13 doses out of the new 15-dose vials.

However, even 13 doses is more than 10, and federal health officials are hopeful that this move will help speed up production and delivery over the coming months. It also helps President Joe Biden fulfill his promise of having enough vaccine supply to give the shot to every U.S. adult by May 1 — a promise that seemed endangered by the bad news about the millions of contaminated Johnson & Johnson vaccines. At least 46 states have responded to Biden’s promise by pledging to open up vaccine eligibility to all adults by May 1 or earlier.