Covid Vaccine

UNICEF to stockpile 520 mn syringes by year-end


The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has begun laying the groundwork for Covid-19 vaccination by purchasing and pre-positioning syringes and other necessary equipment, reports Xinhua, reports UNB.

 UNICEF will stockpile 520 million syringes by the end of this year in its warehouses, part of a larger plan of 1 billion syringes by 2021, to guarantee initial supply and help ensure that syringes arrive in countries before the Covid- 19 vaccines, it said on Monday.

Historic undertaking

"Vaccinating the world against Covid-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history, and we will need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a press release.

"In order to move fast later, we must move fast now. By the end of the year, we will already have over half a billion syringes pre-positioned where they can be deployed quickly and cost-effectively. That's enough syringes to wrap around the world one and a half times."

In line with the longstanding collaboration between the two partners, the global vaccine alliance Gavi, will reimburse UNICEF for the cost of syringes and safety boxes, which will then be used for the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) and for other Gavi-funded immunization programmes, if needed.

‘Safety boxes’ for disposal

 Besides syringes, UNICEF is also buying 5 million safety boxes so that used syringes and needles can be disposed of in a safe manner, thus preventing the risk of needle stick injuries and blood-borne diseases. Every safety box carries 100 syringes, reports UN news.

Lead-times for injection equipment such as syringes and safety boxes are long as these items are bulky and need to be transported by sea freight.

Vaccines, which are heat sensitive, are normally transported more quickly by air freight. In addition to saving time, early purchase of syringes and safety boxes also reduces pressure on the market and preempts potential early spikes in demand when vaccines do become available, said the press release.

To make sure that Covid-19 vaccines are transported and stored at the right temperature, UNICEF, along with the World Health Organization, is also mapping out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity and preparing necessary guidance for countries to receive vaccines, it said.

Huge increase

 Covid-19 vaccines will likely treble or quadruple that number, depending on the number that are ultimately produced and secured by UNICEF.

“Over two decades, Gavi has helped an additional 822 million children from the world’s most vulnerable countries access critical, life-saving vaccines”, said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “This would not have been possible without our partnership with UNICEF, and it is this same collaboration that will be essential to Gavi’s work with the COVAX Facility.”

 To make sure that vaccines are transported and stored at the right temperature, UNICEF, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), is also mapping out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity – in the private as well as public sector – and preparing necessary guidance for countries to receive vaccines.

 “We are doing everything we can to deliver these essential supplies efficiently, effectively and at the right temperature, as we already do so well all over the world,” Ms. Fore said.

 Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, with support from Gavi and in partnership with WHO, UNICEF has been upgrading the existing cold chain equipment across health facilities in countries to ensure that vaccines remain safe and effective throughout their journey.

Fridges boost health services

 Since 2017, over 40,000 cold-chain fridges, including solar fridges, have been installed across health facilities, mostly in Africa, said the agency.

 And in many countries, UNICEF is promoting solar technologies to help countries maintain supply chains.

 In South Sudan, the least electrified country in the world, where temperatures frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius, more than 700 health facilities have been equipped by UNICEF with solar power fridges - around 50 per cent of all facilities nationwide.

 Fridges boost health services

 Since 2017, over 40,000 cold-chain fridges, including solar fridges, have been installed across health facilities, mostly in Africa, said the agency.

 And in many countries, UNICEF is promoting solar technologies to help countries maintain supply chains.

 In South Sudan, the least electrified country in the world, where temperatures frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius, more than 700 health facilities have been equipped by UNICEF with solar power fridges - around 50 per cent of all facilities nationwide.