COVID-19 vaccine allocations, storage and handling

Learn about your vaccine allocation, how to manage your allocation, and what to do with expired or excess vaccines.

Vaccine allocation

Each primary care vaccination site will be provided with a fortnightly vaccine allocation. These allocations are modelled upon available vaccine supply.

Your allocation may increase when more doses become available and allocations are reviewed.

Transferring doses

Doses can be transferred between participating COVID-19 vaccination program sites to meet demand or manage excess stock.

Both the receiving site and the transferring site must record the transfer details in their vaccine stock management report by 9 pm every Friday.

Both sites must be enabled for that vaccine type (including signing the relevant site readiness declaration) and agree to the transport arrangements, including:

  • sending the appropriate amount of consumables (syringes, needles and sharps collectors)
  • maintaining cold-chain storage.

Read more about transferring vaccines between participating sites.

Storing and handling vaccines

For guidance on storing and handling vaccines see ATAGI's clinical guidance.

Vaccine providers must refer to the National Vaccine Storage Guidelines (Strive for 5) for cold-chain management of COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccinating patients offsite

COVID-19 vaccines come in multi-dose vials. This may make it challenging for vaccines to be administered in home visits. You are encouraged to vaccinate all patients in the practice itself to ensure cold-chain process and shelf life are maintained.

For offsite vaccinations, there are 2 options:

  1. Transport the vial and draw up the dose before administering.
  2. Transport pre-drawn doses that can be appropriately stored and administered within 1 hour. 

Appropriate storage includes maintaining cold chain. If you cannot ensure these conditions, transport the vial and draw up the doses at the administration site.

You don't need to 'warm up' vaccines by letting them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before administration. This includes Spikevax (Moderna). To minimise possible discomfort check the syringe is not cold to the touch before administering.

You must store each vial or dose at the recommended temperature without exceeding the total maximum storage period specified in the product information.

For guidance on transporting vaccines see ATAGI's clinical guidance.

Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine – leakage of vial diluent

If there is leakage of the diluent while reconstituting the Pfizer vaccine, you can still use the vaccine if most of the diluent has been injected into the vial.

If you are unsure how much diluent has been injected into the vial, you can still use the vaccine if there is enough diluent for 4 doses.

Ensure that there has been no breach of infection control.

Drawing up and handling

ATAGI’s multi-dose vial guidance applies to the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

All COVID-19 vaccines in Australia come in multi-dose vials. ATAGI prefers using a 19 to 21 gauge bevelled needle when drawing up to reduce the risk of coring. If this is not available, a smaller (22 to 25 gauge), or larger (18 gauge) needle is acceptable, but the risk of coring is higher with larger needles. If entering the vial multiple times, ensure that each re-puncture occurs at a different site on the bung.

Carry doses you have just withdrawn in syringes with capped administration needles. 

The room temperature should be less than:

  • 30 °C for the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines
  • 25 °C for the Moderna vaccine.

Where vaccine doses are administered one after another you can withdraw multiple doses from one vial in the preparation area. Each filled syringe with a capped administration needle must be:

  • appropriately labelled
  • stored at the appropriate temperature.

You should use each dose as soon as practical once withdrawn from the vial. You may pre-draw multiple doses from one vial and use them within:

  • 1 hour if stored at room temperature
  • 6 hours if stored between 2 and 8 °C. 

There is data supporting stability of vaccine doses after withdrawal into a syringe for up to 6 hours at room temperature. However, ATAGI recommends that pre-drawn doses are used within 1 hour in order to minimise any remote potential risk of infection.

If any doses remain in the vial, refrigerate between 2 and 8 °C immediately.

If you will not be administering a vaccine dose one after another (for example, in many general practices), withdraw and administer each dose separately. 

You must store each vial or dose at the recommended temperature and do not exceed the total maximum storage period specified in the product information.

Stock control measures

Plan bookings in advance and make appointments available in order to manage the amount of stock you have on hand.

We recommend sites vaccinate priority populations as quickly as you can.

Do not:

  • stockpile vaccines
  • reserve second doses for patients who have had a first dose.

Instead, manage your bookings to use up all stock on hand where possible.

Encourage patients to book their second dose at the time they have their first dose.

Expired or excess vaccines

Doses due to expire before the next scheduled vaccination are considered excess.

Minimise excess doses by matching the number of doses able to be extracted in a vial to your bookings.

To reduce wastage and maximise doses, we encourage sites to:

  • maintain a reserve or waiting list of eligible patients who have either not made a booking, or who have a later booking, but can come in at short notice
  • use excess doses for other patients or staff are available and interested when excess doses are identified.
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