For more than six months, the collective attention of our country has been laser-focused on one topic: the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Now dozens of vaccines are undergoing testing, with some even vying for approval by the end of the calendar year. But one landmark solution may create a problem of its own: a syringe shortage.
Industry leaders and experts alike are sounding the warning bells, reminding manufacturers that they only have a small window of time to boost supply. When a vaccine does finally become available, doctors across the country will need more syringes than ever before to accommodate the vast number of inoculations required to control the pandemic.
Danger of Shortage Extends into 2021
Syringes are essential to any successful vaccination program, but the first wave of the COVID-19 vaccination program doesn’t pose the most danger for a shortage. It’s actually the second and third waves of vaccinations in 2021 that have experts worried.
In order to meet demand through 2021, manufactures must double capacity in the United States. And that’s not even considering global needs. Unless syringe manufactures ramp up production dramatically over the next few months, the U.S could face a vital shortage by the New Year.
“What we’ve been telling governments around the world is, if you are planning to do an immunization program for COVID-19, you need to order those now and not wait until a vaccine is ready,” said Troy Kirkpatrick, spokesman for Becton, Dickinson & Co (BD), the world’s largest manufacturer of syringes.
BD has already committed to producing 470 million syringes for the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
“Our baseline is already in the multiple billions, and even at that scale it’s not like we can, say, produce another 100 million this month,” said Kirkpatrick. “That’s why we’re being very proactive in educating governments that you need to place your orders now.”
What Vaccines Are Most Promising?
In late July, Moderna and the NIH launched America’s first Phase 3 clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. The ultimate goal is to determine if the vaccine can prevent symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses. Researchers will all study the data to find whether mRNA-1273 can prevent severe COVID-19 or laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection with or without disease symptoms. Results may be available as soon as November, and Moderna aims to deliver at least 500 million doses per year beginning in 2021.
Pfizer’s vaccine candidate BNT162 contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA. This genetic code sends cells a message that helps them build an immune response to the COVID-19 virus. On July 27, Pfizer and partner BioNTech launched a trial that combines phase two and three by enrolling a diverse population in areas with significant coronavirus infection. Their goal is to seek regulatory review as early as October 2020.
Coronavirus vaccine candidate ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Early results from phase one and two of clinical testing revealed the vaccine triggers a strong immune response. Now ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 has entered phase three of its clinical trial and aims to recruit up to 50,000 volunteers in Brazil, the UK, the US, and South Africa.
The bottom line? With so many strong contenders, it’s only a matter of time until we have a reliable COVID-19 vaccine. Now it’s time to ensure we’ll also have syringes to utilize the long-awaited vaccines.