The discovery by front-line workers that vials of the Pfizer COVID vaccine intended to inoculate five people were enough for as many as seven is being compared to the Hanukkah miracle of Temple oil.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that pharmacists unpacking the deliveries of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine were surprised to discover that the vials, listed as containing enough for five people, actually had enough vaccine for six or even seven people. If true, that means that the limited supply may help more people than previously thought. Unfortunately, some medical facilities were reluctant to use the additional doses, unsure of what the protocol should be. On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration released a statement instructing physicians that, “given the public health emergency,” it was acceptable to use every full dose left over in each vial. The agency said it was consulting with Pfizer to determine “the best path forward” and advised health officials not to pool doses from multiple vials.
In a statement, Pfizer said there is a uniform amount of vaccine in every vial, but that the amount left over after five doses are removed could vary based on the type of syringes and needles as well as the amount of diluting solution used. The company said it was consulting with the F.D.A. about the issue and could not “provide a recommendation on the use of the remaining amount of vaccine from each vial.” It advised staff members doing the vaccinations to consult with local institutions.
The announcement came on Wednesday, coinciding with the seventh night of Hanukkah. Jews light candles on the eight nights of the holiday, commemorating the miracle that happened after the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt in 200 BCE. When rededicating the Temple, the priests searched for oil to light the golden Menorah but they discovered that the Seleucids had defiled all of the oil. The priests succeeded in finding one small cruse of oil sufficient or one day. After lighting the Menorah other flame remained for eight nights.
Many on social media were quick to remark on the “coincidence.”
Now *this* is a proper Hanukkah miracle! https://t.co/8MYKBbsQBr
— Laika the Space Dog (@MMendlowPhD) December 17, 2020
Pfizer is also providing Israel with the vaccine, with the first 3,000-4,000 doses arriving two weeks ago as a pilot program. Pfizer manufactured enough vaccines for 12.5 million people, 25 million doses since it requires two shots, for use in the US, initially for the front-line health workers, and after that, for higher-risk populations. It is expected that the vaccine will be available to the general population in a few months.