With governments and the public keeping high hopes over the development of a vaccine against coronavirus, the U.S. government raises concerns about a possible shortage in syringes.
Various companies race to develop COVID-19 vaccines and some experts warned that syringes could also short of supply, leading to market into chaos, according to Yahoo News.
Learning from the supply issues of masks and other personal protective equipment when the pandemic began, the federal government and health care supply companies are trying to mitigate the foreseen concern this early on.
Thus, the U.S. government aim to stock up on syringes, after it secured a deal for at least $260 million in contracts for syringe production.
"In the U.S., we're in a well-positioned and well-prepared place," said Chaun Powell, Premier Inc.' group vice president of strategic supplier engagement. The hospital supply-purchasing group also warned that the global demand could still drain U.S. manufacturers' supplies, which lead to a shortage of syringe once vaccines became available earlier.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci said during the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that a vaccine could be ready by early 2021. This may lead to syringe shortages as early as May.
President Donald Trump reassigned Dr. Rick Bright in April from leading the Health and Human Services office tasked with helping develop a COVID-19 vaccine. In May, Bright submitted a report that warned the United States would need as much as 850 million syringes.
This would be enough to give two shots of the vaccine to every American as well as cover the increased demand for flu shots that may arise after a pandemic.
The syringe demand before and after a pandemic
According to USA Today, Bright said in his report that his boss told him they should worry about syringes when there was something to inject. He also commented that he was removed from his previous post because he was critical of the Trump administration's management of the coronavirus pandemic.
He also complained about the 15 million syringes on Strategic National Stockpile available in May.
"Our current inventory of these supplies is limited and, under current capabilities, it would take up to two years to produce this amount of specialized safety needles," White House Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro wrote in a statement to the coronavirus task force.
"We may find ourselves in a situation where we have enough vaccine, but no way to deliver all of it," he added.
Powell explained that every year, the U.S. "typically see about a 4% annual growth rate on flu shots," which reached between 130 and 150 million shots administered last year. However, this rate increases to 20% after a pandemic outbreak. "We saw it historically with Ebola, we saw it with SARS," Powell said.
Bright's estimate of 850 million syringes will provide each American vaccine shots. However, it is not possible neither necessary to achieve herd immunity.
American hospitals use 4.5 billion disposable plastic syringes every year, which do not include syringes used by pharmacies and doctors' clinics for flu shots as well as those being sold for diabetics or IV fluid flush injectors.
Meanwhile, since the U.S. produces billions of syringes, this will not be as much of a problem.