CHICAGO (CBS) — Vaccination is the key to ending the coronavirus crisis, but it’s not just doses that are in short supply.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Tuesday, there is also a shortage of syringes to administer the vaccine.

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Could this stall our progress getting shots into arms? The state and manufacturers said right now, the answer is no.

But companies like Medline Industries said they are ramping up production to levels never seen before.

COVID-19 vaccine doses are small – usually less than half a milliliter. So right now, 1-mL low-dead space syringes are the gold standard to help conserve every drop of vaccine by limiting the dead space between the syringe hub and needle.

“It’s the most preferred,” said Ben Duck, Diagnostics Division President at Medline. “One-milliliter low-dead space is what everybody wants right now.”

But Duck said there is a fixed global supply of syringes and needles.
And even though Medline is expecting to ship three times the syringes this year than they did in 2019, they are getting requests from customers that say they still need more.

“We are getting requests, that’s absolutely right” Duck said. “It’s a matter of having the right supply in the right place at the right time, and those things don’t always line up.”
Luckily, other syringes will still work – they just might not be as efficient.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said they are getting requests for additional syringes to be included in the vaccine kits.

But they said it is not a shortage, generally, but rather a desire of providers for more of a specific type of syringe.

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The type of syringe has proved crucial when it comes to how many doses are extracted from each vial.

The Food and Drug Administration approved low dead-space syringes for squeezing a sixth dose out of Pfizer vials and an 11th dose out of Moderna vials, which over time can translate to millions of doses worldwide.

Walgreens also told the CBS 2 Investigators syringe supplies are tight.

However, it has not affected Walgreens’ ability to administer the vaccine, a spokesperson said.

That was also our question for Medline. Is it to the point where a lack of syringes could inhibit our vaccination progress?

“At one specific location at one time, they may struggle, but overall, in the United States, I don’t perceive it being a global shortage at all,” Duck said.

Northfield-based Medline was one of six companies awarded multimillion-dollar U.S. Department of Defense contracts for syringes and safety needles last August.

Duck said they are aware of how their particular syringes could help conserve every last drop of precious vaccine. For that reason, he said, “We’ve got the pedal to the metal and do it as much as we possibly can OK.”

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We also heard back from CVS Health, which said so far, they are not seeing a shortage of syringes because their inventory is matched with their number of vaccine doses.

Megan Hickey