UNICEF to stockpile over half a billion syringes by year end, as part of efforts to prepare for eventual COVID-19 vaccinations 

19th October 2020

Initial preparatory work – in partnership with Gavi and WHO – will include purchasing boxes for the safe disposal of syringes and mapping out cold chain equipment to ensure delivery of effective vaccines

On 6 March 2018 in India, pentavalent vaccines are being checked for imperfections. © UNICEF/Singh

New York/Dublin 19.10.2020  As the world awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, UNICEF has begun laying the groundwork for the rapid, safe and efficient delivery of the eventual vaccine by purchasing and pre-positioning syringes and other necessary equipment. 

As soon as COVID-19 vaccines successfully emerge from trials and are licensed and recommended for use, the world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine. To begin preparations, this year, UNICEF will stockpile 520 million syringes in its warehouses, part of a larger plan of 1 billion syringes by 2021, to guarantee initial supply and help ensure that syringes arrive in countries before the COVID-19 vaccines. 

During 2021, assuming there are enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF anticipates delivering over 1 billion syringes to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts on top of the 620 million syringes that UNICEF will purchase for other vaccination programmes against other diseases such as measles, typhoid and more. 

Historic times

“Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history, and we will need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “In order to move fast later, we must move fast now. By the end of the year, we will already have over half a billion syringes pre-positioned where they can be deployed quickly and cost effectively. That’s enough syringes to wrap around the world one and a half times.”  

Gavi collaboration

In line with the longstanding collaboration between the two partners, Gavi will reimburse UNICEF for the procurement of the syringes and safety boxes, which shall then be used for the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) and for other Gavi-funded immunization programmes if necessary.  

Syringes and storage first

Besides syringes, UNICEF is also buying 5 million safety boxes so that used syringes and needles can be disposed in a safe manner by personnel at health facilities, thus preventing the risk of needle stick injuries and blood borne diseases. Every safety box carries 100 syringes. Accordingly, UNICEF is “bundling” the syringes with safety boxes to ensure enough safety boxes are available to go along with the syringes. 

Injection equipment such as syringes and safety boxes have a shelf life of five years. Lead-times for such equipment are also long as these items are bulky and need to be transported by sea freight. Vaccines, which are heat sensitive, are normally transported more quickly by air freight. In addition to saving time, early purchase of syringes and safety boxes also reduces pressure on the market and pre-empts potential early spikes in demand when vaccines do become available.

As the key procurement coordinator for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF is already the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. Every year, UNICEF provides vaccines for almost half of the world’s children and procures and supplies around 600-800 million syringes for regular immunization programmes. COVID-19 vaccines will likely treble or quadruple that number, depending on the number of COVID-19 vaccines that are ultimately produced and secured by UNICEF. 

“Over two decades, Gavi has helped an additional 822 million children from the world’s most vulnerable countries access critical, life-saving vaccines,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “This would not have been possible without our partnership with UNICEF, and it is this same collaboration that will be essential to Gavi’s work with the COVAX Facility.”  

Mapping cold chain

To make sure that vaccines are transported and stored at the right temperature, UNICEF, along with WHO, is also mapping out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity – in the private as well as public sector – and preparing necessary guidance for countries to receive vaccines.  

“We are doing everything we can to deliver these essential supplies efficiently, effectively and at the right temperature, as we already do so well all over the world,” Fore said. 

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with support from Gavi and in partnership with WHO, UNICEF has been upgrading the existing cold chain equipment across health facilities in countries to ensure that vaccines remain safe and effective throughout their journey. Since 2017, over 40,000 cold-chain fridges, including solar fridges, have been installed across health facilities, mostly in Africa. 

In most countries, UNICEF is promoting solar technologies to help countries maintain supply chains. In South Sudan, the least electrified country in the world, where temperatures frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius, more than 700 health facilities have been equipped by UNICEF with solar power fridges, approximately 50 per cent of health facilities in the country. 
 

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ENDS 

Notes for editors: 

Download photos and broll here, including special syringe broll at the world’s largest humanitarian warehouse in Copenhagen, run by UNICEF, and from South Sudan on syringes and solar fridges being used at a health centre. 

About UNICEF 

Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.  

For more information about UNICEF and its work for every child, visit our website 

For more information about COVID-19, visit www.unicef.org/coronavirus . Find out more about UNICEF’s work on the COVID-19 vaccines here, or about UNICEF’s work on immunisation here

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About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 822 million children – and prevented more than 14 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation and reaching the unvaccinated children still being left behind, employing innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency.   

Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organizations that fund Gavi’s work here.  

For more information, please contact: 

Aedin Donnelly, Communications Manager, UNICEF Ireland, 085 1395272aedin@unicef.ie 

Sabrina Sidhu, UNICEF New York, +1 917 4761537, ssidhu@unicef.org     

Anne Sophie Bonefeld, UNICEF Copenhagen, +4524694676, abonefeld@unicef.org 

Meg Sharafudeen, Gavi, +41 79 711 5554, msharafudeen@gavi.org