Ten days after Kenya received its first shipment of 795,600 doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine donated by the United States, the Department of Health admitted it was unable to administer the vaccine in due to the lack of special syringes.
The ministry, while ruling out the option to purchase the syringes, told the Nation that it was relying solely on the US government to send a batch of low-dead space syringes to be able to administer the jab.
“We expected the United States to send us the syringes that were supposed to be used to administer the doses that we received, but they did not, and now we are waiting, as they had promised to do. “said a senior official from the Department of Health.
In a telephone interview, Dr Andrew Mulwa, director of medical services, preventive and promotional health at the ministry, explained that officials hope the United States will soon donate much-needed syringes before the vaccines expire.
“The syringes and the doses were packed in two separate shipments, I think they are arriving but I don’t know when.”
A low dead space syringe is different from a regular syringe because it has less space between the needle and the plunger when fully inserted, compared to traditional injection equipment.
It also has a detachable needle. The dead space in a syringe contains blood after its use. According to the UK-based National Health Institute of Research, syringes with low dead space can reduce the risk of spreading infections such as HIV and hepatitis C if reused or shared.
Last December, as the manufacturer Pfizer-Biontech began distributing its Covid-19 vaccines across the United States, experts responsible for administering the vaccine raised concerns after noticing something strange – each vial of vaccine labeled by the manufacturer to contain five doses contained an additional liquid they established was sufficient for a sixth dose.
Pfizer-Biontech then obtained clearance from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which decided that this “extra dose” would be factored into Pfizer’s dose commitments, which meant it could manufacture and deliver fewer vials than the contractual agreement previously indicated. .
However, there was still a major problem.
Getting this sixth dose out of the vials requires a “special” syringe which is rare in the world, potentially hindering the rollout of vaccination. “When diluted, the vials of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contain six doses of 0.3 ml of vaccine,” the FDA noted in its emergency use authorization, while adding only low volume syringes and / or needles. death can be used to extract six doses from a single vial.
“If standard syringes and needles are used, the volume may not be sufficient to extract a sixth dose from a single vial,” the regulator says in part on the official website.
While the shelf life of Pfizer’s vaccine is six months, the shipment Kenya received 10 days ago was manufactured three months ago and the interval between the first and second dose is 21 days .
Dr Mulwa, who doesn’t know when the expected donation will arrive, insists, however, that despite the lack of low-dead space syringes, the ministry plans to deploy the jab before it expires.
“We have until December to exhaust this lot,” he said.