Looming global syringe shortage could hamper Africa’s vaccination rollout

World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, says the COVAX facility is working to secure agreements for the production of syringes as shortages loom.

She was speaking during the organisation’s press briefing on the continent’s fight against COVID-19.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) the world faces a shortfall of “up to 2.2 billion auto-disable syringes” for COVID-19 vaccination and routine immunisation in 2022.

Moeti said although COVID-19 vaccine shipments have increased on the continent, the looming threat of syringe shortages could “paralyse progress” in the vaccination of communities.

“Already some African countries…have experienced delays in receiving vaccines and unless drastic measures are taken to boost syringe production, Africa faces a crisis.

“Syringe production both globally and locally in Africa, must be stepped up fast – countless African lives depend on it. The COVAX facility has been working to address this problem by securing agreements with manufacturers for the needle syringes and through better planning to avoid delivery [of vaccines] outpacing the supply of syringes,” she said.

According to Moeti, the UNICEF shortfall of up to 2.2 billion auto-disable syringes for COVID-19 vaccination and routine immunisation in 2022.

Africa’s fight against COVID-19

Moeti said 29 300 new COVID-19 cases were reported on the continent which indicates a 30% drop in new cases compared to last week.

However, ten countries are facing a resurgence of the virus.

In total, the virus has claimed more than 217 000 deaths and nearly 8.5 million cases have been reported

She says at least 77 million or 6% of people on the continent have been fully vaccinated – a far cry from higher income countries who have vaccinated more than 40% of their populations.

She said this, in part, points to some African countries needing to improve their readiness for vaccination rollouts.

With 50 million doses arriving in Africa this month alone and more expected to arrive, Moeti said the WHO is assisting African countries to step up their roll out plans.

“The WHO is conducting emergency support missions to help support five countries that are lagging behind, speed up and improve speed up and improve their COVID-19 rollouts with plans for missions for another 10 countries. Our experts are working with local authorities and partners on the ground to address the reasons for any hold ups and how best to address them,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za

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