Home South African Global shortage of syringes could hamper SA’s vaccine roll-out

Global shortage of syringes could hamper SA’s vaccine roll-out

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Amid the rush to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, billions were pumped into developing the vaccines but the expansion of manufacturing for syringes did not gain relevance until recently.

File picture: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

THE SHORTAGE of Covid-19 vaccines is not the only challenge that threatens the successful roll-out of vaccines globally.

Amid the rush to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, billions were pumped into developing the vaccines but the expansion of manufacturing for syringes did not gain relevance until recently, when countries’ vaccination drives got stuck due to the unavailability of the right syringes.

It is estimated that the world needs somewhere between 8 to 10 billion syringes for coronavirus vaccines alone. Earlier, before Covid-19, only 5 to 10% of 16 billion syringes were used for vaccines.

Co-principal investigator of the Johnson & Johnson implementation study in South Africa, Professor Glenda Gray, said they were not only worried about the vaccine but also about getting access to the syringes.

“There’s a global shortage of syringes. When we first bought the syringes for Sisonke (J&J vaccine study) they cost us R50 a pack, they are now R400 a pack, and this has caused a shortage of syringes globally. So, it is not only the vaccine we are worried about but it is actually trying to access the syringes as well for the vaccination,” said Gray.

Countries are battling to find enough syringes to administer the Covid-19 vaccines.

It was reported in the New York Times that officials in the US and the EU have said they don’t have enough vaccine syringes. In January, Brazil restricted exports of syringes and needles when its vaccination effort fell short.

Japan also revealed last month that it might have to discard millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine if it couldn’t secure enough special syringes that could draw out a sixth dose from its vials.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize revealed that a huge chunk of South Africa’s budget for the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out programme would be spent on needles and syringes.