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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees. Scientists and researchers the world over have been racing against time to find a vaccine that will work. Governments all over have been making plans for obtaining and distributing vaccines. Syringe makers in India are increasing their capacities by more than 30% to meet the projected rise in global demand.
Three major Indian medical device companies manufacture the 0.5 ml AD or auto-disable syringes currently: Becton Dickinson, Hindustan Syringes & Medical Device, and ISCON. The 0.5 ml AD syringes will be needed for the COVID-19 vaccine. Together, these three companies plan to increase the capacity to make 1.4 billion syringes by June next year. As of now, the capacity is 1.1 billion pieces per year. Other companies are also planning to start manufacturing AD syringes. There will therefore be the availability of 400-500 million pieces that were used for insulin syringes.
The companies, in a meeting with the government, stated that around 50% of the 1.4 billion capacity will be dedicated to local consumption and the remaining for export. According to initial projections, around 900 million syringes will be needed for the COVID-19 vaccine locally in the first phase. This will expectedly increase manifold after vaccine supply begins fully.
Rajiv Nath, managing director of HMD, the largest manufacturer of syringes in the country, says that as soon as a vaccine is ready, the government should be prepared with a secured stock of syringes in advance. Around 60-70% of India’s population of 1.3 billion will require syringes for the vaccine. Adding to that, Nath also said that almost 60-70% of the world population of 7.8 billion people will require syringes.
A sub-committee has been formed under the National Vaccine Administration Committee that is headed by NITI Aayog member Dr. VK Paul. The sub-committee is headed by the secretary in the department of pharmaceuticals. It has been formed to monitor any issues regarding preparedness and procurement of the vaccine, its delivery, and administration.
An official said that estimates have been drawn and discussions with medical device makers are on. According to the official, per projections of demand, companies have started the expansion and have sufficient capacity. The official also mentioned that the syringes will be adequate for local consumption and will also allow for India to be a major supplier to the world.
The industry however has also raised concerns about the cheap vaccines available from China as that leads to spare capacity within the country. The government has therefore been asked to give procurement assurance and target prices to ensure companies do not lose investments and capacities.
Rajiv Nath said that the government has to make its order. The company has an inventory of 100 million syringes that can be supplied by the end of the year. Syringe manufacturers in the country have been exporting more than 60% of syringes to other countries via UNICEF. The country itself has been meeting 50% of its demand through China, which sends cheaper imports.