EDITORIAL - Now it’s syringe shortage

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Now itâs syringe shortage

There were long lines at inoculation centers yesterday, the final day of the special National Vaccination Day. The three-day program to ramp up inoculation against COVID-19 included minors from ages 12 to 17. Boosters and third doses were also available for health frontliners, seniors and persons who are immune compromised.

Buoyed by the high turnout, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez proposed the extension of the program until this Friday. The government, however, is leaving it up to local government units to decide if they want to extend their program. The national government is instead eyeing another three-day “Bayanihan Bakunahan” on Dec. 15 to 17.

From 15 million jabs targeted for the Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 vaccination drive, the government was forced to prune the number to nine million. The reason, apart from logistics problems, is the shortage of needed supplies particularly syringes for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Despite the ramping up of vaccine production by the pharmaceutical companies, there still aren’t enough COVID jabs especially in developing and low-income countries. The problem has been compounded by the lack of syringes. In the Philippines, even as the government began the vaccine rollout this year, certain quarters had already pointed out the lack of syringes needed for the jabs.

Only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been given emergency use approval by the country’s Food and Drug Administration for use on children. The Pfizer jab in particular requires a new auto-disposable syringe, which locks automatically so it cannot be used again.The government is coursing its procurement of syringes for the jabs through the United Nations Children’s Fund.

UNICEF had estimated last October that there would be a global shortfall of up to 2.2 billion auto-disposable syringes, with the shortage to be most acute in lower and middle income countries. The lack of syringes is raising the prospect of waste if the vaccines expire.

The international community put together the COVAX Facility to improve global access to COVID vaccines. With more vaccines being produced, the world will have to deal with the syringe shortage. An official of the WHO in Africa had warned that the scarcity of syringes “could paralyze progress” in the vaccination drive. The Bayanihan Bakunahan illustrates the problem.

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