The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday warned of a potential global shortage of up to one to two billion syringes needed to administer COVID-19 vaccinations next year.
WHO expert Lisa Hedman told a United Nations (U.N.) briefing that national health authorities should plan in advance to prevent the “hoarding, panic buying” situation that occurred during the onset of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic last year, when there were global shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We could have a global shortage of immunization syringes that could, in turn, lead to serious problems such as slowing down immunization efforts as well as safety concerns,” Hedman, WHO senior advisor, from the Access to Medicines and Health Products division, said.
The potential shortage of one to two billion syringes could impact routine immunizations, and undermine needle safety by encouraging the unsafe reusing of syringes and needles, particularly in poorer countries, she added. This practice isn’t advised, she said, as harmful bacteria remained present.
Hedman told the briefing that so far, approximately 6.8 billion COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered worldwide, compared to the total manufacturing capacity of roughly 6 billion immunization syringes a year, noting that a shortage of syringes is “unfortunately a real possibility.”
In order to avoid a shortage of vaccine syringes next year, more factories should move to manufacturing the right kind of device for shots, Hedman added.
“If we shift capacity from one type of syringe to another or attempt to expand capacity for specialized immunization syringes, it takes time and investment,” she said.
“When you think about the magnitude of the number of injections being given to respond to the pandemic, this is not a place where we can afford shortcuts, shortages, or anything short of full safety for patients and healthcare staff,” Hedman added.
The WHO last month issued a similar warning about a potential shortage of vaccine syringes.
“Early next year, COVID-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyze progress,” the WHO’s regional director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said last month, The New York Times reported. “Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, fast. Countless African lives depend on it.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group, WHO, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday meanwhile held a session with leading COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers on ramping up the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine doses to low-income countries, where less than 2.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Reuters contributed to this report.