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Solving COVID

How some states will attempt to avoid wasting coronavirus vaccines in early distribution stages

Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, which was submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization this week and could be rolled out by mid-December, must be kept in ultra-cold conditions and will initially be shipped in boxes that hold a minimum of 975 doses. Once a vial is thawed and diluted to make five shots, people receiving the vaccine (early on that is expected to be health-care workers), will then have just six hours to get inoculated, Politico reports. Whatever is left over will then spoil.

While there's great excitement about the vaccine's pending authorization, the concern about wasted shots is very real, "especially early on when it will be practically liquid gold," Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Pharmacists Association, told Politico.

States are trying to come up with ways to mitigate the risk, but spoiled doses are inevitable. Maryland health officials told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that as much as 5 percent of the vaccine the state is allocated could go unused in the initial rollout, especially because rural counties may not be able to use up all 975 doses on their own. To counter, Maryland is considering creating regional clinics where people in high priority groups from different rural communities could come to get vaccinated.

Oregon is considering contracting emergency medical providers to drive around and divy up the vaccine among remote areas, Politico reports. And North Dakota wants to repackage the vaccine into smaller boxes — Pfizer says it's working on a smaller pack size that won't be ready until next year — while also identifying people in the next priority group to get a shot if there are any doses left over.

Regardless, the situation will be tricky, but Moderna's vaccine, which will also soon be up for FDA authorization, is expected to be a bit easier to distribute than Pfizer's. Read more at Politico.