Pharmacists are sounding the alarm about a looming shortage of syringes. As Taiwan’s supply of COVID vaccines grows, more and more vaccinations are being carried out. But pharmacists say they’re quickly using up the country’s limited stock of syringes. They fear that patients who need injections for other medical conditions could be left in crisis, if stocks aren’t gathered soon.

The vaccination drive is at full pace. With each drop of vaccine so precious, pharmacists are keen to make each jab efficient.

Shen Tsai-ying
Pharmacist
This has a minimum unit of 0.01, so it’s not precise enough.

Each AstraZeneca vial contains about 5 milliliters – enough for 10 people to get a 0.5 milliliter dose. By using a 1 milliliter syringe, that can be stretched out to 12 doses with nothing to spare. But pharmacists are concerned that if all the smallest syringes are used by vaccinators, other patients with chronic conditions could be left in the cold.

Shen Tsai-ying
Pharmacist
An injection of insulin has to be very precisely measured. A difference of 0.1 milliliters or even 0.01 milliliters is enormous and will lead to high or low blood sugar levels. In serious cases it could create a risk of the patient going into shock.

Currently, the AstraZeneca vaccine is being administered with 23 and 24 gauge syringes, often used for intramuscular injections. The more precise 27 gauge syringe is more common for subcutaneous injections and is needed for insulin shots and dialysis. A precise syringe might make a vaccine less painful, but stocks are running low and need to be imported from overseas.

Shen Tsai-ying
Pharmacist
A supplier told us that right now they’re already out of 1 milliliter syringes. Now there’s this shipment of 2.5 million Moderna doses, and there could be 10 million more coming. We may need to plan ahead with this. In other countries they’ve also run out of syringes, both 1 milliliter and 3 milliliter.

As COVID ranges across the globe, Taiwan is no longer in a bubble. More supplies are needed for the vaccine program to be completed successfully. Pharmacists hope the government will plan ahead now and get the logistics right.