Exclusive: U.S. goal to squeeze more COVID shots from Pfizer vials hampered by syringe production
(Reuters) – The world’s largest syringe maker does not have the capacity to substantially increase U.S. supplies of specialty syringes needed to squeeze more doses from Pfizer Inc COVID-19 vaccine vials in the coming weeks, an executive said in an interview.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, one of two authorized for U.S. emergency use, is shipped in vials initially indicated to hold five doses. Six doses can be drawn with special syringes, called low dead space syringes, which minimize the amount of vaccine left in the syringe after use.
If healthcare providers can reliably extract the sixth dose it would allow supplies to be stretched 20% further and could be a financial boost for Pfizer, which is paid per dose.
The U.S. government has begun giving healthcare providers new syringe kits to extract six shots from each vial. It said that three of the low dead space syringes in each six-needle kit would allow extraction, according to an email reviewed by Reuters. A CDC spokeswoman said the new kits would contain a “majority” of low dead space syringes.
Syringe maker Becton Dickinson has contracted with the U.S. government to provide 286 million syringes for use with COVID-19 vaccines, including around 40 million low dead space syringes, and is fully prepared to deliver on that agreement, said Troy Kirkpatrick, the company’s senior director of public relations.
Low dead space syringes are a niche product and Becton Dickinson had not discussed plans with the U.S. government to substantially boost their output when they began preparing for the vaccine rollout last year, he said.