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Japan to waste millions of doses of Pfizer vaccine because of syringe mixup

A shortage in specialist syringes will see millions of doses discarded

Bethany Dawson
Wednesday 10 February 2021 10:17 GMT

A shortage of specialist syringes in Japan means millions of people will not receive the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine. 

Standard syringes cannot extract the sixth and final dose from each vial manufactured by the US drugmaker. Without the specialist syringes, the final dose will be discarded. 

Japan has secured 144 million shots of the Pfizer vaccine, enough for 72 million people, however, a shortage of specialist “dead space” syringes that can collect the sixth dose means 12 million people will be unable to receive the vaccine. 

“The syringes used in Japan can only draw five doses,” health minister, Norihisa Tamura said, according to the Kyodo news agency. “We will use all the syringes we have that can draw six doses, but it will, of course, not be enough as more shots are administered.”

A Japanese health ministry official told Jiji Press: “When the contract was made, we were not absolutely sure that one bottle could be used for six shots. We can’t deny we were slow to confirm that.”

When Japan begins its Covid immunisation programme later thing month, health workers who are unable to extract the sixth dose will have to discard them, the government’s top spokesman, Katsunobu Kato said.

This problem is not isolated to Japan, with US and some EU countries also reporting a shortage of low dead space syringes, leading to the possibility of strong competition to quickly secure additional supplies.

When they begin, the Japanese inoculation efforts will first be delivered to 10,000 to 20,000 frontline healthcare workers

Japan will begin by inoculating 10,000 to 20,000 frontline health workers, with efforts ramped up to deliver vaccines to 3.7 million health workers from mid-March.

The rollout for 36 million people aged 65 and over is not expected to begin until early April.

AstraZeneca requested approval for its vaccine last month, while the Moderna vaccine is not expected to receive until May.

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