Rajiv Nath’s family-run Hindustan Syringes bets it can help meet the pandemic need for billions of barrels and needles.
Syringes being packed for shipment at Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices in Ballabgarh, India.Credit…Rebecca Conway for The New York Times
By Karan Deep Singh
BALLABGARH, India — In late November, an urgent email popped up in the inbox of Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices, one of the world’s largest syringe makers.
It was from UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, and it was desperately seeking syringes. Not just any would do. These syringes must be smaller than usual. They had to break if used a second time, to prevent spreading disease through accidental recycling.
Most important, UNICEF needed them in vast quantities. Now.
“I thought, ‘No issues,’” said Rajiv Nath, the company’s managing director, who has sunk millions of dollars into preparing his syringe factories for the vaccination onslaught. “We could deliver it possibly faster than anybody else.”
As countries jostle to secure enough vaccine doses to put an end to the Covid-19 outbreak, a second scramble is unfolding for syringes. Vaccines aren’t all that useful if health care professionals lack a way to inject them into people.
Officials in the United States and the European Union have said they don’t have enough vaccine syringes. In January, Brazil restricted exports of syringes and needles when its vaccination effort fell short.
Further complicating the rush, the syringes have to be the right type. Japan revealed last month that it might have to discard millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine if it couldn’t secure enough special syringes that could draw out a sixth dose from its vials. In January, the Food and Drug Administration advised health care providers in the United States that they could extract more doses from the Pfizer vials after hospitals there discovered that some contained enough for a sixth — or even a seventh — person.
“A lot of countries were caught flat-footed,” said Ingrid Katz, the associate director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “It seems like a fundamental irony that countries around the world have not been fully prepared to get these types of syringes.”
The world needs between eight billion and 10 billion syringes for Covid-19 vaccinations alone, experts say. In previous years, only 5 percent to 10 percent of the estimated 16 billion syringes used worldwide were meant for vaccination and immunization, said Prashant Yadav, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington, and an expert on health care supply chains.
Wealthier nations like the United States, Britain, France and Germany pumped billions of dollars of taxpayer money into developing the vaccines, but little public investment has gone to expand manufacturing for syringes, Mr. Yadav said.
Source: Read Full Article