Walgreens hasn't been following dose-timing guidelines for Pfizer vaccine, report finds

Walgreens has been scheduling Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine appointments four weeks apart, rather than the CDC's recommended three weeks, The New York Times reported April 5. 

Walgreens said it has been scheduling the doses four weeks apart because it's faster and simpler to schedule all of its vaccine appointments this way. The Moderna vaccine doses are supposed to be given four weeks apart, so using the same gap for both vaccines was "the easiest way to stand up the process based on our capabilities at the time," Kevin Ban, MD, Walgreens' chief medical officer, told the Times

Kate Grusich, a CDC spokesperson, told the Times the agency has asked Walgreens to stop using the longer-than-recommended time period between vaccine doses. Walgreens said it's changing its system and, starting as soon as the end of this week, it will schedule Pfizer doses three weeks apart. 

There's no evidence that separating the vaccine doses by an extra week affects the vaccine's efficacy, and the CDC has said the doses can be given up to six weeks apart in some circumstances. 

Some public health experts told the Times they're not concerned that Walgreens has been giving the Pfizer vaccine four weeks apart rather than three. 

"It's a week difference. Everybody’s going to need to put it in their contexts and their risk factors, but I think this is a very reasonable approach" from Walgreens, Katherine Poehling, MD, a pediatrician at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., who sits on the CDC advisory panel that recommended the Pfizer vaccine be given roughly three weeks apart, told the Times

But Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., told the Times: "It is not the role of a private, for-profit company to make public health decisions that should be determined by guidelines issued by a public health authority."

Dima Qato, PharmD, PhD, a pharmacist and associate professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, told the Times she was concerned about how the public perceives inconsistent messaging about the spacing of vaccine doses. 

"As we're trying to build trust in this pandemic, I think this may push us back," Dr. Qato said.

Read the full article here

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