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  • Are We Facing a Syringe Shortage?

Are We Facing a Syringe Shortage?

Sep 10 2020 Read 378 Times

While there’s been plenty of talk surrounding a shortage of masks and PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts are warning countries could soon experience a shortage of syringes. The United States currently manufactures around 663 million syringes a year, though the federal government says an additional 850 million may be required is a vaccine is approved by winter 2020. If the nation can’t manufacture the additional syringes it could slow the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine and hinder the country’s attempts to contain the virus.

Experts advise countries to plan and stockpile

The race to find a vaccine has been fierce, with some experts predicting potential shots could receive emergency approval by the end of the year. While this would be a major breakthrough for public health, it leaves the United States with an incredibly short window to scale up syringe manufacturing and increase supplies. To meet demand, US manufacturers would need to boost production by 50%. Experts are encouraging other countries to do the same, advising governments to plan and stockpile.

Troy Kirkpatrick, a spokesperson for American multinational medical technology company BD, says “What we’ve been telling governments around the world is, if you are planning to do an immunisation program for Covid-19, you need to order those now and not wait until a vaccine is ready.”

A global leader in medical manufacturing, BD produces more than 50% of all syringes used in the United States. “Our baseline is already in the multiple billions, and even at that scale it’s not like we can, say, produce another 100 million this month,” says Kirkpatrick. “That’s why we’re being very proactive in educating governments that you need to place your orders now.”

Whistle-blower warns of dangerously low national stockpile

The warnings build on controversy sparked in May by Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. He filed a complaint criticising the United States for holding just 15 million syringes in the national stockpile, a dangerously low figure considering the global pandemic. To develop herd immunity, the Center for American Progress estimated around 462 million people will need to be inoculated with a potential COVID-19 vaccine. With just 15 million units in the national stockpile and companies such as BD under pressure, delivering a COVID-19 vaccine to the masses could be difficult.

“The very first phase, we’ll have enough because we aren’t going to vaccinate billions of people, we’re still going to get vaccines to hundreds of millions of people,” says supply chain expert Prashant Yadav, a senior fellow at Centre for Global Development. “In the second and third phase is when things get tricky.”

Want to know more about how companies like BD operate behind the scenes? ‘The power of knowing your markets’ offers insight from GAMBICA, the UK Trade Association for Instrumentation, Control, Automation and Laboratory Technology

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