WHO Warns of Potential Vaccine Syringe Shortage

The world is facing a shortfall of more than a billion syringes as COVID-19 immunization efforts continue.

The World Health Organization announced the possibility of a global shortage of syringes in 2022 for the COVID-19 vaccine in the 1 billion to 2 billion range.

The United Nations reports that a WHO senior adviser, Lisa Hedman, warns that many may find themselves missing routine vaccinations unless manufacturing picks up.

Hedman also said that over 6.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines are currently being administered globally per year. That number nearly doubles the amount of routine inoculations delivered annually.

Hedman says, β€œ[Given] the global manufacturing capacity of around six billion a year for immunization syringes, it’s pretty clear that a deficit in 2022 of over a billion could happen if we continue with business as usual.”

To add another hurdle, syringes require 10 times more transportation space than a vaccine, which makes them susceptible to delays.

In October, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore released a statement highlighting the same concern, assuming an unhindered vaccine supply next year.

Fore said UNICEF secured nearly 3 billion auto-disable syringes since 2020 but added a shortfall of over 2 billion auto-disable syringes could occur as a result of attempting to meet new COVID-19 vaccination targets. 

Fore stated the shortage would affect syringes that lock automatically to prevent reuse. This would harm β€œlow- and middle-income countries, where this type of syringe is critical for safety.”

To avoid the shortage, Fore provided a list of six actions:

  • Expand access to both syringe sizes for most COVID-19 vaccines and for routine immunization.
  • Have a secure and predictable supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Make injection equipment shipments by international freight carriers a priority.
  • Stop hoarding safe injection equipment.
  • Phase local COVID-19 vaccination rollouts.
  • Consider expanded use of reuse prevention syringes in line with the national policy of the recipient countries.

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