April 6, 2021 -- The Walgreens pharmacy chain has not been following government guidelines on timing between the first and second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the New York Times reported.
The Pfizer shots should be spaced 21 days apart, but Walgreens has been scheduling the second dose for 28 days later, the Times said.
Twenty-eight days is the time recommended between doses of the Moderna vaccine, which Walgreens also administers.
Kevin Ban, MD, Walgreens’ chief medical officer, told the Times that using the 28-day wait time was “the easiest way to stand up the process based on our capabilities at the time.”
The CDC asked Walgreens to start using the 21-day wait period, said Kate Grusich, a CDC spokeswoman.
Ban said the pharmacy chain will start using the recommended spacing on the Pfizer shots soon, perhaps as soon as the end of the week.
The CDC says waiting more than 21 days between the Pfizer shots will not wreck the vaccine’s effectiveness.
"If it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval and a delay in vaccination is unavoidable, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be administered up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose," the CDC website says. "Currently, only limited data are available on efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window."
Health officials have debated whether it’s a good idea to wait even longer to give the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines so that a greater number of people can have at least one dose.
Kent Sepkowitz, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, told CNN on Monday that the decision to delay a second dose may come down to available supply.
"If the stockpile is running low, then yeah, I think we ought to optimize 'pretty good' vaccination for more people than 'super-duper' protection for fewer," Sepkowitz said.
If there’s no shortage, he recommended staying with the two-dose regimen.
Speaking Monday at a news briefing, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said delaying second doses could put people in a "tenuous zone," especially with variants circulating, CNN reported.