Syringe shortfall threatens Africa's COVID vaccine drive

UNICEF, the United Nation's fund for children, is predicting an "imminent shortfall" of up to 2.2 billion of the single-use syringes used to give jabs, WHO Africa said.

FILE: These include auto-disable syringes used to administer Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID vaccine, WHO said. Picture: 123rf.com

BRAZZAVILLE - Africa's struggle to inoculate people against COVID-19 risks being hobbled by a shortage of syringes just as supplies of vaccines flood into the continent, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

UNICEF, the United Nation's fund for children, is predicting an "imminent shortfall" of up to 2.2 billion of the single-use syringes used to give jabs, WHO Africa said.

These include auto-disable syringes used to administer Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID vaccine, it said.

The shortage will remain through at least the first quarter of next year, it said in a weekly online briefing.

"Early next year, COVID-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyse progress," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.

"Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, fast."

Unless there is a significant acceleration, only five African countries, or below 10%, will reach the target of 40% of populations vaccinated by the end of the year, the WHO said.

These countries -- Seychelles, Mauritius, Morocco, which have already reached this target, as well as Tunisia and Cape Verde -- together account for just 51 million of the continent's 1.2 billion population.

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