Interpreting COVID-19 vaccine expiration date from delivery notes

7 January 2022

There are 4 different COVID-19 vaccines available currently, each with different storage and expiry conditions. It is important that all staff involved with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout understand this information to prevent inadvertently discarding viable vaccines, or administering expired vaccines. Note: Pfizer 5-11 vaccines are able to be stored in the fridge for 10 weeks. 

See  COVID-19 vaccine comparison chart.

Download our   spreadsheetDefrost Expiry Calculator (11 KB) .

Your Delivery Note

The Delivery Note that comes with your vaccine deliveries will look like this: 

DHL Delivery Docket 20220107
  1. Pfizer 5-11 (Orange) vaccines can be stored at 2°C to 8°C for 10 weeks from defrost date. Vaccines were defrosted on 31/12/21 at 8.00am and can be used until 8am on 11 March 2022.
  2. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines can be stored at 2°C to 8°C for 31 days from defrost date. Vaccines were defrosted on 31/12/21 at 7am and can be used until 7am on 31 January 2022.
  3. The expiry dates printed on the Delivery Note (31/03/2022 and 28/02/2022) is the manufacture expiry date – this is how long the vaccine can be stored in freezer conditions, prior to defrosting.

Pfizer 5-11 (Orange) vaccines: The expiry date will NOT be printed on each individual vial, only the manufacture date, so it is vital that the outer carton expiry date is checked and noted. The expiry date and thawed date will be labelled on the carton prior to dispatch from DHL.

Check that the expiry date and thawed date has been labelled on the outer carton when delivered. The label on the carton should reflect the refrigerated expiry date and the original expiry date. The earlier date must be used. 

20220110 expiry date

Check your knowledge!


  1. What date was Pfizer 5-11 (Orange) vaccines defrosted?
  2. What date was Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines defrosted?
  3. What date should you discard Pfizer 5-11 (Orange) vaccines?
  4. What date should you discard Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines?
  5. What does the 31/03/2022 expiry date refer to?
  6. What does the 28/02/2022 expiry date refer to?
  7. What does the Use By 13-03-2022 8:00AM date and time refer to?
  8. What does the Defrost 31/12/2021 07:00AM date and time refer to?

>>> DOWNLOAD our   spreadsheetDefrost Expiry Calculator (11 KB) here <<<

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(1) 31 December 2021; (2) 31 December 2021; (3) 11 March 2022; (4) 31 January 2022; (5) Manufacture expiry date of Pfizer 5-11 (Orange) vaccine (when in frozen storage conditions); (6) Manufacture expiry date of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines (when in frozen storage conditions); (7) The thaw use by date is 13 March 2022 at 8:00am for Pfizer 5-11 (Orange) vaccines; (8) Refers to the defrost date of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, which is used to calculate thaw use by date, which is 31 days from defrost date. The thaw use by date is 31 January 2022 at 7:00am for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines 

Training and Resources

Please review the following training and information on COVID-19 vaccine administration:

  1. Paediatric Pfizer training module, and other COVID-19 vaccine training modules
  2. Reconstitution instructions for Pfizer 5-11 (Orange) vaccines
  3. Reconstitution instructions for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines
  4. Quick Reference Poster for all COVID-19 vaccines
comp chart

It is vital that sites are aware of the differences between the thaw use-by date and the manufacture expiry date for the mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer):

  • The manufacture expiry date on the vial indicates the expiry for the vaccine vial.
  • The thaw use-by date commences at the time the vials are removed from the freezer or ultra-low storage to commence thawing.

Whichever date is earliest is the last date the vaccines should be administered to a patient. All sites should have clearly labelled and visible thaw use-by dates for each vial – noting these will be different for subsequent deliveries. Both the thaw use-by dates and the manufacture expiry date should be checked prior to every vaccine administration.

Please ensure your site has clear processes to identify and action these dates to prevent vaccine administration errors.