Japan is reportedly delaying its rollout of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine owing to a shortage of specialized syringes that can draw six shots from every vial. This oversight is likely to create a roadblock for the nation’s inoculation program, despite Japan having secured over 144 million shots.
Health minister Norihisa Tamura has revealed that standard syringes currently in use are not equipped to extract the final sixth dose from each vial produced by Pfizer. The procurement of 144 million shots of the vaccine was targeted towards catering to 72 million people, based on the assumption that each vial would contain 6 doses.
According to Pfizer, each vaccine recipient would need to receive two jabs three weeks apart in order to gain the optimum level of protection. Low “dead space” syringes are required for the vaccine rollout, with narrow plungers able to push out leftover vaccine.
The shortage of these syringes will force vaccinators in Japan to utilize standard syringes that can extract five doses per vial, which in enough only for 60 million people. Tamura also reportedly stated that the nation would use the entire stock of specialized syringes that they currently have, however, it would not be enough to fulfil the intended inoculation target of 72 million people.
The government has now appealed to medical equipment manufacturers to boost the production of these specialized syringes. Japan is not the only nation facing this challenge. EU countries and the U.S. have also reported shortages of low dead space syringes, which indicates that there will be intense competition among the regions in securing the additional supplies.
Japan’s government, which has initiated its inoculation program much later than many other developed nations, has spoken out in defense of its cautious approach to the rollout of the vaccine. The program is set to commence on the 17th of February 2021, pending approval from local authorities for the Pfizer vaccine two days prior.