Ten days after Kenya received its first shipment of 795,600 Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by the US, the Department of Health has admitted it cannot give the vaccine due to a lack of specialized syringes.
While the department ruled out the option of purchasing the syringes, it announced to the nation that it is relying solely on the American government to send a series of low-dead space syringes to administer the sting.
“We expected the US to send us the syringes to give us the doses we received, but they didn’t and now we are waiting as they promised,” a senior health department official said.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Andrew Mulwa, the department’s director of medical services, preventive and promotional health, said officials hope the US will soon donate the much-needed syringes before the vaccines expire.
“The syringes and the cans were packed in two separate shipments. I think they’ll come, but I’m not sure when.”
A syringe with little dead space differs from a normal syringe in that it has less space between the needle and the plunger when it is fully pushed in compared to traditional injection devices.
It also has a removable needle. The dead space in a syringe contains blood after it has been used. Syringes with little dead space can reduce the chance of spreading infections like HIV and hepatitis C if they are reused or shared, according to the UK-based National Health Institute of Research.
When manufacturer Pfizer-Biontech began selling its Covid-19 vaccines in the United States last December, experts tasked with administering the vaccine raised concerns after noticing something strange – every vaccine vial that was dated Manufacturers labeled for the inclusion of five contained doses was an additional liquid, which they produced was sufficient for a sixth dose.
Pfizer-Biontech then received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which decided that this “extra dose” would count towards Pfizer’s dose obligations, meaning they could manufacture and ship fewer vials than they did was previously specified in the contractual agreement.
However, there was still one major problem.
To get that sixth dose from the vial, a “special” syringe is required, which is in short supply around the world and which may hinder the introduction of vaccinations. “Once diluted, Pfizer BioNTech vaccine vials contain six 0.3 ml doses of the vaccine,” the FDA highlighted in its emergency approval, adding that low dead volume syringes and / or needles can be used to remove six doses a single vial.
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“If standard syringes and needles are used, the volume may not be sufficient to extract a sixth dose from a single vial,” the regulator states in part on the official website.
While the Pfizer vaccine shelf life is six months, the shipment that Kenya received 10 days ago was made three months ago and the interval between first and second doses is 21 days.
Dr. However, Mulwa, unsure when the expected donation will arrive, insists that despite the lack of syringes with low dead space, the ministry plans to introduce vaccination before the deadline.
“We have until December to exhaust this supply,” he said.