AS many as 150,000 Covid vaccine doses may be have been wasted because doctors are "wrongly being told to throw away a potential sixth dose".
Every vial of the Pfizer vaccine was expected to include five doses – enough for five people – but GPs have found it's possible to get six doses out of each.
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With 1.5 million Brits vaccinated so far, that's the equivalent of 150,000 doses that could have been unnecessarily thrown away.
Clinicians were issued with updated vaccination guidance last month advising them that they could use the sixth dose "at their discretion".
However, anecdotal reports have suggested that not all those carrying out vaccinations have been advised of the change to protocols.
ITV's Robert Peston today said that a doctor who has been giving jabs in east London told him she has been instructed to discard of the extra dose.
He tweeted: "My doctor source tells me there is usually a sixth dose in each vial, and that she and her fellow vaccinators have been instructed to throw way the vial after five doses.
"In her centre all these sixth doses are being thrown away, and she assumes this practice is widespread."
He referred to Public Health England's "Patient Group Direction" for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was revised to allow "for administration of a sixth dose if obtainable from the multidose vial" from January 5.
Peston went on: "The problem is NHS Trusts and others in charge of vaccination do not seem to know that the protocol has changed.
"Just to be clear, it is theoretically possible on the basis of yesterday's vaccination stats that more than 150,000 doses of the precious vaccine have already been wasted."
Officials have stated that revised information was issued to UK healthcare professionals on December 17.
It states that a sixth dose can be taken when "low dead-volume syringes and/or needles are used", according to the Department of Health.
These are specially-designed syringes that has less space between the needle and the plunger and could be used to squeeze out the last dose.
It followed updated guidance from the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 16, stating that practitioners could use the sixth dose “given the public health emergency”.
The UK regulator is understood to be looking at the feasibility of getting six doses out of one vial – and reported to be consulting with the NHS.
The Sun Online has contacted NHS England for comment.
Meanwhile, the EU's medicines watchdog today said that six doses of the Pfizer jab can be extracted from each vial if the correct needles are used.
The European Medicines Agency said in a statement: "If standard syringes and needles are used, there may not be enough of the vaccine to extract a sixth dose from a vial."
The watchdog warned that if a full 0.3-millilitre dose is not left in the vial after the fifth dose, "the healthcare professional must discard the vial and its contents".
Healthcare workers should not mix the leftovers from "multiple vials to make up a full dose", it stressed.
The Amsterdam-based agency gave the green light on December 21 for the vaccine, developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech, to be used in the 27-member European Union.
An additional dose from each vial could significantly accelerate the number of people being vaccinated each day in Europe, where numerous governments are facing accusations of a slow rollout.
The new guidance from the EMA came as the EU struck a deal to double its previous supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 600 million doses.
It comes as the Moderna vaccine became the third to be approved for use in the UK.
Boris Johnson has pledged to to vaccinate at least 200,000 Brits a day by January 15 — with the Army drafted in to help deliver more jabs.
The PM also revealed at the latest Downing Street press briefing that nearly 1.5million had been given their first dose so far.
A new national booking service for people to be vaccinated will also be unveiled – and no one will have to travel more than ten miles to get one, the PM added.
He said more than 1,400 hospitals, GP practices and pharmacies would be immunising patients by the end of next week.
And he insisted he had "no doubt" that there would be enough supply to offer everyone in the top four vulnerable groups a vaccine by his February 15 deadline.
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