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UNICEF to stockpile over half a billion syringes by year end for covid-19

To make sure that covid-19 vaccines are transported and stored at the right temperature, UNICEF, along with WHO, is also mapping out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity. (REUTERS)Premium
To make sure that covid-19 vaccines are transported and stored at the right temperature, UNICEF, along with WHO, is also mapping out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity. (REUTERS)

  • UNICEF's move will guarantee initial supply and help ensure that syringes arrive in countries before the covid-19 vaccine
  • , UNICEF is anticipating the delivery of over 1 billion syringes to support covid-19 vaccination efforts

NEW DELHI: Indicating availability of covid-19 vaccines starting 2021, UNICEF has said that it will stockpile 520 million syringes in its warehouses by the end of this year.

The move is to guarantee initial supply and help ensure that syringes arrive in countries before the covid-19 vaccine. This is because as soon as covid-19 vaccines successfully emerge from trials and are licensed and recommended for use, the world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine.

During 2021, assuming there are enough doses of covid-19 vaccines, UNICEF is anticipating the delivery of over 1 billion syringes to support covid-19 vaccination efforts. This is on top of the 620 million syringes that UNICEF will purchase for vaccination programmes against other diseases such as measles, and typhoid, among others.

“Vaccinating the world against covid-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history, and we will need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. “In order to move fast later, we must move fast now. By the end of the year, we will already have over half a billion syringes pre-positioned where they can be deployed quickly and cost effectively. That’s enough syringes to wrap around the world one-and-a-half times," Fore said.

Besides syringes, UNICEF is also buying 5 million safety boxes so that used syringes and needles can be disposed in a safe manner by personnel at health facilities, thus preventing the risk of needle stick injuries and blood borne diseases. Every safety box carries 100 syringes. Accordingly, UNICEF is “bundling" the syringes with safety boxes to ensure enough safety boxes are available to go along with the syringes.

Gavi, the global alliance for vaccines, will reimburse UNICEF for the procurement of the syringes and safety boxes, which shall then be used for the covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) and for other Gavi-funded immunization programmes if necessary, UNICEF said.

Injection equipment such as syringes and safety boxes have a shelf life of five years. Lead-times for such equipment are also long as these items are bulky and need to be transported by sea freight, the UNICEF said, adding that vaccines, which are heat sensitive, are normally transported more quickly by air freight. In addition to saving time, early purchase of syringes and safety boxes also reduces pressure on the market and pre-empts potential early spikes in demand when vaccines do become available.

To make sure that covid-19 vaccines are transported and stored at the right temperature, UNICEF, along with WHO, is also mapping out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity—in the private as well as public sector—and preparing necessary guidance for countries to receive vaccines.

“We are doing everything we can to deliver these essential supplies efficiently, effectively and at the right temperature, as we already do so well all over the world," Fore said.

As the key procurement coordinator for Gavi, UNICEF is already the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. Every year, UNICEF provides vaccines for almost half of the world’s children and procures and supplies around 600-800 million syringes for regular immunization programmes.

Covid-19 vaccines will likely treble or quadruple that number, depending on the number of covid-19 vaccines that are ultimately produced and secured by UNICEF.

Originating from China in December 2019, covid-19 has so far claimed 1,117,539 lives and inflicted over 40,344,310 persons across 189 countries including India, according to Johns Hopkins live dashboard of the disease.

India is currently on the second spot in terms of number of cases after the US and third spot in deaths after US and Brazil. India has one-sixth of the world’s population (one-fifth excluding China), and one-sixth of the reported cases. India accounts for around 10% of the world’s deaths. So far, India has confirmed over 75,94,763 covid-19 cases and lost 115,519 lives to the highly infectious disease.

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