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Independents' Day

Government orders 65m syringes ahead of potential Covid-19 vaccine

The UK Government has ordered 65m syringes from one manufacturer as part of preparations for a potential Covid-19 vaccine, due for delivery by mid-September.

The Government told Pulse it was taking 'necessary steps' to ensure it was in the 'best position' once a 'safe and effective coronavirus vaccine becomes available'. 

It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock told the National Pharmacy Association conference yesterday that the Government is 'working hard' on a Covid vaccination programme, to run alongside the 'biggest flu vaccination programme in history'.

Medical technology company BD, which has received the syringe order, said a Covid-19 vaccine was unlikely to come ready to be delivered in pre-filled syringes due to the accelerated speed with which the vaccination programme needs to be rolled out.

Instead, it would expect it to come in single or multidose vials, requiring separate syringes to administer the vaccine to patients.

Earlier during the pandemic, AstraZeneca enterered into a global licensing agreement with the University of Oxford, which is undertaking an expedited programme of developing a Covid-19 vaccine funded by a £65.5m investment from the UK Government.

The Government has also provided £18.5m to Imperial College London towards vaccine trials.

In May, the Government announced it had reached a deal with AstraZeneca to make up to 30m doses of the Oxford vaccine available by September for the UK, as part of an agreement to deliver 100m doses in total, should it prove safe and effective.

But clinicians suggested to Pulse that the syringe order was a 'gamble' on the Government's part, as there are currently around 170 potential Covid-19 vaccines in development across the world - and no one knows which of these, if any, will prove successful.

Professor Azeem Majeed, head of Imperial College London’s Department of Primary Care and Public Health, said: ‘It’s a gamble, because there’s not yet an actual vaccine - tested, shown to be safe, or produced on scale.

'I imagine the Government felt they had to make the order now, or else they would be in a queue. Recently, the Government has also rushed into deals with PPE and antibody tests, only for it to transpire that they weren’t that useful.’

Kent LMC medical secretary Dr John Allingham said: 'Whoever placed the order knows the devices are going to be compatible with a vaccine for which there are several candidates in development. This is remarkable insight. Will the vaccine be intramuscular or subcutaneous, and what volume will be needed? Have they ordered an adaptable device that can cover all bases?’

BD told Pulse that the specific vaccination device ordered by the Government is a syringe with an integrated needle which is 'dose sparing', thus 'generating less waste'.

A Government spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The Government is taking the necessary steps to ensure the UK is in the best position once a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine becomes available and is engaging with a wide range of companies through the Vaccines Taskforce’.

The spokesperson also highligted the agreement the Government has reached with AstraZeneca.

BD UK and Ireland vice president and general manager Mike Fairbourn said: 'With a 60-year history in vaccine delivery, BD is committed to producing 65m high-quality vaccine injection devices to support the UK in planning for a Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

'BD applauds the UK Government for its forward-thinking and coordinated approach in planning for future Covid-19 needs. This device selection will help ensure the maximum number of UK citizens get inoculated in the fastest possible timeframe.'

Interim advice developed on behalf of the Government by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said frontline health and care staff should be prioritised for vaccination against Covid-19, due to their increased risk of being exposed to coronavirus and transmitting it to patients.

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Related images

  • flu vaccine syringe

Readers' comments (14)

  • Do we know if they have actually ordered realistic numbers of ffp3 masks yet?

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  • Sh: of course not, it won't be the same person in the same depaertment responsible for syringes as that for PPE!

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  • On current form I wouldn't suppose any of these BD folks would be mates with Dominic Cummings?

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  • Next Announcement:

    "Govt has placed an order for 65m spot plasters.
    We've got this totally under control folks"

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  • whose going to give it, who is going to pay for the extra staff time, needle boxes, incineration costs etc etc etc? can pharmacists give at same time as flu jab, can you give with flu jab, can you give to immunosuppressed etc - need info soon, not the week before.

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  • The public will think "if I get a vaccine, I can now goof around, forget handwashing and demand to see a GP to cough in their face as was historically permissable". Problem.

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  • Is this the first bit of proactive work the government has done in this pandemic?
    This is actually vaguely sensible, regardless of the uncertainties.

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  • So we are to use a syringe with an integrated needle to draw from the multidose vial and then inject into the punter?

    I must say that I would generally fit a new needle to inject the skin, rather than use the one that had been contaminated and blunted on the bung of the bottle. I've been giving injections that way for 25 years, convinced by the electron microscope photos of needles following injections

    I DON'T TRUST NHSE TO GET THIS RIGHT. Who did they ask for advice?

    The item described sounds suspiciously like an insulin syringe. Could it be that there are a few of these lying around going out of date now that nobody uses them any more?

    How can they purchase syringes before we know the volume of injection? Let's hope the needles are long enough to reach muscle (unless of course its a sub-cut vaccine)

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  • Hancock crows about the the 'biggest flu campaign in history'. I accept that the UK and Netherlands achieve the best vaccination rates in Europe, mainly due to Primary Care in both countries, but the USA gives 160 million 'flu shots' every year so isn't their campaign bigger? All this 'world-beating' hyperbole is mendacious

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  • Syringes without anything to put in them yet,mmm anyone remember tamiflu.

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