Becton Dickinson, the world’s largest syringe manufacturer, announced that the need to ramp up production for a COVID-19 vaccine will lead to an “extreme surge demand” that further burdens the already overtaxed supply chain, NBC News reported.
A spokesperson for Becton Dickinson, Troy Kirkpatrick, said “waiting until a vaccine is available will be too late.”
According to NBC, Kirkpatrick warned that “there is not capacity in the global industry to manufacture hundreds of millions or billions of syringes and needles in a month or two,” emphasizing what federal government whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright said earlier this year to his superiors at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The report stated that on March 12, Dr. Bright wrote in his complaint, “it could take two plus years to make enough to satisfy the US vaccine needs for a pandemic. We need to hold on to all that we have and look at surging supplies now from producers.”
According to NBC, Peter Navarro, the White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, and Dr. Dan Hanfling – a vice president at In-Q-Tel who worked on emergency preparedness under the Bush and Obama administrations – have both expressed similar concerns.
Dr. Hanfling said the “issue of needle and syringe shortages as a part of the supply chain needed to ensure timely delivery of medical countermeasures has been on the radar screen for a long while,” Hanfling said. "If delivery systems are not available, how do we get medical countermeasures into the arms of those who will need them?”
NBC reported that the HHS “signed contracts with two companies for $111 million on May 1 for ‘a COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Campaign.’”
Kim Elmore, senior director of pharmacy contracting for Premier Inc. – a national purchasing company for healthcare providers – stated that the amount of influenza vaccine for a typical year is around 160 million doses. But to meet the demand for a possible COVID-19 vaccine, she said that figure would have to be doubled, according to NBC.
However, an HHS official told NBC News that they need to wait before ramping up production until they know exactly what form a vaccine might take. “For example, we don’t know if successful vaccines would be injected or oral (as a pill or liquid), or if injected, how many doses each person would need to get," the official stated. “When a safe, effective vaccine becomes available, doses will be manufactured over a period of time, so ancillary supplies will be needed over time rather than all on day one, which aids manufacturers in meeting the need."
NBC reported that the pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA says the industry is prepared. According to a PhRMA spokesperson, “innovative biopharmaceutical companies have comprehensive contingency plans as part of their overall supply chain planning, meaning that during unforeseen events biopharmaceutical companies are able to redirect resources from other manufacturing.”
Yet another concern raised by Becton Dickinson’s Kirkpatrick was that an “expected surge for flu vaccinations next season given forecasts of a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall” will require the company and the overall medical supply chain to maneuver multiple demands at once.
NBC wrote that abrupt surges in demand for syringes will “put even more pressure on a healthcare supply chain system that is already experiencing ‘unprecedented’ pressure.”