As India is gearing up to immunise over 30 crore Indians by July with COVID-19 vaccines, efforts are on to stockpile syringes required for the mass immunisation plans. Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices Ltd (HMD), one of the largest manufacturers of disposable syringes in the world, is readying to supply 177.6 million auto disabled (AD) syringes to the Indian Government by March 2021, said Rajiv Nath, Managing Director of the firm.
"The front runner COVID-19 vaccines being launched in India would need a 0.5ml AD syringe for intramuscular drug delivery, we are informed. In addition to the annual procurement of 300-350 million of these syringes by the Indian Government for the UIP (Universal Immunisation Program), additional orders have been placed on us by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW)," he said.
The estimated demand in India would be around 900 million of different kinds of syringes for just one shot of vaccine, considering 60-70 per cent of the country is going to be vaccinated. The number would amplify to 1.8 billion if the vaccine India chooses needs two shots. The MoH&FW is also in discussion with two more suppliers to place additional orders or are seeking to prepone deliveries of already placed orders with them.
"We have requested the government to provide us clarity on various kinds of syringes required for the vaccine candidates under development as some of these would be by intra dermal delivery (via skin) or intra nasal delivery (via nose) or possibly oral delivery (via mouth). Each type would require a matching specialized syringe type. We need early intimation for boosting the capacities further. Syringe production is not like production of PPE kits which can be easily ramped up. It requires precision engineered multi cavity molds, equipment and automation that have a lead time of nine months to a year from reputed suppliers in Europe & Japan," said Nath.
Last year, India had exported nearly 1.07 billion syringes worth over Rs 250 crore, but imported Rs 423 crore worth of syringes. Currently over 50 per cent of the AD syringes used in immunisation come in from China. The government should increase import duty on syringes from 7.5 per cent to 15 per cent to enable expansion of supply base and profitable growth of quality certified production of all components and products in India, he said.
He said HMD has also shipped over 100 million pieces of Auto Disable syringes to Covax, an alliance of over 180 countries under the World Health Organisaton (WHO), Vaccine Alliance and GAVI to fight the pandemic and ensure global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The Covax facility has ordered 140 million AD syringes from HMD to be supplied between August and December 2020. The WHO and UNICEF have recommended that auto-disable syringes should be used for administering vaccines- particularly in mass immunisation programs.
In anticipation of the unprecedented spike in demand, HMD has ordered multi-cavity molds, high speed assembly and packaging lines and expects to achieve 800 million capacity per annum in the first quarter and 1,000 million by end of second quarter of 2021, up from the current capacity of 700 million of these specialised 0.5 ml AD syringes, said Nath. "We plan to allocate 50 per cent of the total 0.5 ML AD syringes produced for the government and 50 per cent for export to UNICEF as we have got a global responsibility too," he added.