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WHO warns about looming shortage of Covid-19 vaccine syringes

Prepared syringes with a pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic at an elementary school in San Jose, California.
Prepared syringes with a pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic at an elementary school in San Jose, California.
Image: David Paul Morris

There could be a shortage of one to two billion syringes needed to administer Covid-19 vaccinations in 2022, which could impact routine immunisations and undermine needle safety, warns the World Health Organisation (WHO).

National health authorities should plan their needs well in advance to avoid the “hoarding, panic-buying type of situation” seen early in the pandemic with personal protective equipment, said WHO expert Lisa Hedman.

“We could have a global shortage of immunisation syringes that could in turn lead to serious problems, such as slowing down immunisation efforts and safety concerns,” she told a UN briefing.

A shortage could lead to delays in routine vaccinations, particularly for children, and other health services. It could also encourage the unsafe reusing of syringes and needles, particularly in poorer countries, Hedman said.

About 6.8-billion Covid-19 vaccinations have been administered globally, almost double the number of routine vaccines, she said, compared to total manufacturing capacity of about 6-billion immunisation syringes a year.

This means the world could face a shortage of up to 2-billion syringes next year, unless more factories are shifted to producing the right kind of device for shots.

“If we shift capacity from one type of syringe to another or attempt to expand capacity for specialised immunisation syringes, it takes time and investment.”

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