Syringes for extra vaccines face potential shortages, producer warns
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Syringes for extra vaccines face potential shortages, producer warns

Credit: Belga

The syringe needed to extract a sixth dose from a vial of the Pfizer – BioNTech vaccine is currently limited in production capacity, American syringe producer Becton Dickinson said on Monday.

A vial of the vaccine initially officially contained five doses, but health workers soon realised that they could sometimes draw at least a sixth or even a seventh dose from it, which can speed up the vaccination process.

Drug agencies in both Europe and the United States confirmed in early January that the vials could well contain six doses. But to take a sixth dose, you normally need a special syringe, with a very small dead space – the volume that remains in the syringe once its plunger is fully depressed.

But these are so-called niche products and demand for these syringes “is traditionally minimal,” Becton Dickinson spokesman Troy Kirkpatrick told AFP in a message.

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“For this reason, these products have limited production capacity and it would take time” to increase it, he added.

When Pfizer learned that a sixth dose could be extracted from a vial of its vaccine, the company decided to scale back its supply of the vaccine, according to Belgium’s federal vaccine task force.

The Pfizer vaccine was the first to be recommended by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In the meantime, Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is now also authorised for use, and AstraZeneca’s vaccine could receive a conditional marketing authorisation by the end of the week.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times