Japan to discard millions of Pfizer vaccine doses because it has wrong syringes | Japan
Millions of people in Japan will not receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine as planned due to a lack of specialist syringes – an oversight that could thwart the country’s vaccination program.
Standard syringes used in Japan cannot extract the sixth and final dose from every vial made by the US drug maker, according to Health Minister Norihisa Tamura.
Japan has received 144 million shots of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for 72 million people – assuming each vial contained six doses.
According to Pfizer, each recipient needs two shocks three weeks apart to increase the level of protection.
Due to the lack of low dead space syringes that have narrow plungers that can be used to push vaccine residue out, vaccines in Japan have mostly had to use standard syringes that can extract only five doses per vial, or enough for 60 million people.
“The syringes used in Japan can only take five doses,” Tamura said, according to the Kyodo News Agency. “We’ll use all the syringes we have to pull six doses, but of course it won’t be enough if more shots are given.”
The government is calling on medical device manufacturers to increase their production of specialty syringes.
A vial with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19. Photo: François Mori / AP
Japan is not alone in the problem. The US and EU countries have also reported shortages of syringes with low dead space, which means there is likely to be fierce competition to secure additional supplies quickly.
An official from Japan’s Health Ministry told Jiji Press, “When the contract was signed, we weren’t sure if one bottle could be used for six shots. We cannot deny that we have been slow to confirm this. “
When Japan begins its Covid vaccination program in mid-February – a few months later than many other developed countries – the health workers administering the vaccine will have no choice but to discard the sixth and final dose.
The government has defended its cautious approach to the launch of the vaccine, which is expected to begin on February 17, pending local approval for the Pfizer vaccine two days in advance.
Japan will initially vaccinate 10,000-20,000 frontline health workers whose condition will be closely monitored for side effects, followed by another 3.7 million health workers from mid-March.
The rollout for 36 million people aged 65 and over is not expected to begin until the beginning of April.
Priority will also be given to just over 8 million people with pre-existing health conditions and 7.5 million people aged 60 to 64 years. The general population – people aged 16 to 59 – won’t receive their bumps until July, when Tokyo plans to host the postponed Summer Olympics.
AstraZeneca filed for approval of its vaccine last month, while the Moderna vaccine is not expected to receive regulatory approval until May.
Overall, Japan has secured enough doses for 157 million people.