Currently, there are three major Indian medical device companies – Hindustan Syringes & Medical Device (HMD), ISCON and Becton Dickinson – that manufacture 0.5 ml auto-disable (AD) syringes that will be required to administer a Covid-19 vaccine when it is ready. The three companies together plan to expand capacity to manufacture 1.4 billion pieces per annum of AD syringes by June next year, up from 1.1 billion pieces a year at present.
While a few other companies are also likely to foray into manufacturing AD syringes, there is an additional capacity of 400-500 million pieces that is currently used for making insulin syringes.
In a recent meeting with the government, firms indicated that they can dedicate 50% of the planned 1.4 billion capacity for local consumption, while rest will be used to meet export commitments.
While initial projections show at least 900 million syringes will be required locally for Covid vaccine delivery in the first phase, this is expected to increase exponentially once vaccine supply starts fully.
“The government should be well equipped with secured stock of syringes in advance to administer a vaccine as soon as it is approved and ready,” says Rajiv Nath, managing director of HMD, the largest syringe manufacturer in India.
‘60-70% of 1.3bn Indians will need syringes for Covid shots’
Nath adds that at least 60-70% of 1.3 billion people in India and 7.8 billion people worldwide will need syringes for Covid vaccination.
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Under the government’s National Vaccine Administration Committee, headed by NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul, a sub-committee, headed by secretary in the department of pharmaceuticals, has been formed to look at preparedness and procurement issues related to vaccine delivery and administration. Members of the sub-committee have also started consultations with the medical devices industry.
“We have drawn up estimates and have also held a few rounds of discussions with syringe manufacturers. There is adequate capacity and companies have also started expansion given the projections of high demand once the vaccine is ready. There will be enough for local consumption and in fact, India can also be a major supplier of syringes to the world,” an official told TOI.
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However, the industry has also raised concerns about procurement of cheap syringes from China which leads to spare capacities in the country. It has asked the government for procurement assurance, along with target prices to ensure their investment and capacities are not wasted.
“The government is yet to make an order. At present, we have an inventory and we can supply 100 million AD syringes to the government by end of this year but in the absence of any commitments, we run the risk of creating spare capacities,” Nath said.
Indian syringe manufacturers have been exporting over 60% of their production to other countries through Unicef while India has been meeting 50% of its local demand through cheaper imports from China.
Watch Covid-19 vaccine: Indian syringe-makers look to ramp up stocks