Pfizer clears second package of vaccines from second shipment

DPHSS director Art San Agustin, Customs director Ike Peredo and other officials were on hand to oversee the arrival of the second shipment of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. (DPHSS photo)

Over the weekend, the Joint Information Center reported that one of two packages of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines which arrived on December 19 did not have the proper “green” color on the GPS-enabled thermal sensor to signal that the package was in acceptable condition.

Today, the DPHSS Immunization Program received confirmation from Pfizer-BioNTech that this shipment has been cleared for use. The DPHSS Immunization Program was informed that Pfizer-BioNTech retrieved and reviewed the data from the GPS-enabled thermal sensor on this second package containing 3,900 doses of vaccines, and confirmed its viability.

Guam has now received its full allotment of Pfizer vaccines for December.

Janela Carrera, DPHSS spokesperson, said the boxes were recharged with dry ice.

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“As long as it’s repackaged every few days, then the vials could be viable, I believe, up to 30 days,” Carrera said.

Carrera says it could be just a faulty light or gauge system to begin with, or perhaps it just wasn’t turned on properly.

The two boxes had 3,900 vaccines each, bringing the total Pfizer doses received on Guam to 11,700 — the island’s full December allotment from the feds. That’s expected to fully inoculate 5,850 residents.

Thus far, in three days of vaccine clinics for Public Health and combined with GMH and GRMC efforts, nearly 2,000 doses have been given out.

“Next is our long-term care facilities so we have the residents who are living in those facilities and we’re planning to start vaccinating those residents. And then we start moving into our Phase 1B so our Vaccine Committee will meet today and will start discussing plans for that,” Carrera said.

She added that they’re also awaiting the recently ordered 3800 shots of the Moderna vaccine, which just received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA this past weekend.

“Once we do receive word that our order is being shipped then, of course, we’ll start preparing for its arrival. The freezer requirements…it doesn’t require the same ultra cold freezer requirements like the Pfizer vaccine…so it probably would need to be in some sort of insulated package that’s cold but not necessarily the dry ice package that the Pfizer vaccine requires,” Carrera said.

Guam is still waiting to get word on how many vaccines we’ll be allowed to order for the month of January as the inoculation efforts continue rolling out.

There are two other vaccines that are also looking to get into the market — one by J&J and another by AstraZeneca. Carrera says Public Health has the capacity to manage the carrying vaccines and their needs:

“We have the capability to be able to track these changes, make plans, and we have the flexibility to ensure that we can manage any differences or any vaccines that come our way and ensure that we can vaccinate our people. So, this is not uncommon in terms of vaccines…it’s the same with the flu vaccine,” she said.

Carrera says Guam is in line with the federal prediction, which is that the general population will likely not be getting vaccinated until next summer.