COVID-19 vaccination is the most important global healthcare initiative at the moment and by the end of 2020/beginning of 2021, it is expected that pharmaceutical companies will start to deliver the first vaccines in Europe but probably not enough for the whole world population.  Due to the global scale of the vaccination programme and the urgency of delivering immunisation, vaccines will come in glass vials not in pre-filled syringes and needles. It is expected that 2 doses will be required for each person vaccinated and medical devices will be needed to deliver the vaccine that will be supplied in a glass vial.

Member states need to commit to supply immunization devices

With an EU population in 2019 of 446 million, some 1 billion of syringes and needles for vaccination will be required to deliver the vaccine in Europe.  Countries like the UK, USA and Canada have already committed to the supply of immunisation devices for delivering the vaccine once it is ready.  Thus, it is vital that the 27 EU member states also commit to the supply of needles and syringes for vaccination as soon as possible to avoid a bottle neck in production and supply, as seen previously with PPE during the pandemic, with vaccines available but no medical devices to deliver them. (1) (2)

Governments and institutions in charge of delivering COVID-19 vaccination in Europe must consider how best to maximise the use of the available vaccine, so they can vaccinate more people with, at least initially, a limited number of vaccine doses, and at the same time protect healthcare worker safety.

Protecting healthcare worker safety

Protection of the health and safety of healthcare workers is an obligation for all European healthcare systems and this is must also be true when delivering the COVID-19 vaccination.

EU Directive 2010/32/EU – Prevention from Sharps Injuries in the Hospital
and Healthcare Sector –  says that the use of injection devices with safety mechanisms is the most effective way to prevent sharps and needlestick injuries and the transmission of infections to healthcare workers.  Considering the hundreds of millions of vaccines to be delivered in Europe, the risk of deadly infections to healthcare workers will be exponentially increased.  Thus, EU member states should be committing to theuse of safety syringes and needles to deliver the vaccination to protect healthcare workers and standard medical devices without safety mechanisms must not be accepted.

Maximise the use of the vaccine, to vaccinate more people

Standard syringes and needles are not designed for large scale immunisation campaigns, where the maximisation of the use of the vaccine is critical. Both types of standard devices have dead space, where part of the vaccine remains and is not delivered to the patient and is thus wasted.  The WHO in its recent initiative “A Global Framework to ensure equitable and fair  allocation of COVID-19 products” (update attached),  estimates the wastage of vaccine doses by standard medical devices at 15%.

There are syringes with cannulated needles specifically designed for immunisation programmes that eliminate dead space and thus wastage but do not incorporate safety mechanisms.  Given the health crisis it is vital that the maximum number of people are vaccinated as quickly as possible against COVID-19, with healthcare workers and people over 65 and with co-morbidities likely to be the priority groups.

Thus, the benefits for the population of maximising the number of vaccines delivered and the fact that will that there will not be enough vaccine in the coming months to vaccinate the whole population, it should be acceptable to use immunisation devices without dead space to eliminate wastage.