While clearances for restricted emergency use of vaccines against the coronavirus are yet to come, it has not stopped the backend work.
In Haryana's Faridabad, Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices (HMD) has already ensured a stockpile and also drawn up a plan for dispatching syringes from their warehouse. "We got the go ahead and consignee list of the first order of 83.5 million 0.5 ml AD syringes for which we have 70 million in stock," Rajiv Nath, managing director at HMD, told News18.
HMD, which is India's biggest syringe manufacturer, is ramping up production to churn out a billion units. The capacity is to churn out a lakh syringes per hour. Annually, 300 million syringes are required for the government's Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) that involves vaccinating against 13 infections. The demand is expected to go up by 600 million pieces.
The company, which also manufactures for UIP, says it can be ready with production of ordered 177 million syringes by March 2021. The management said that the lockdown that saw a halt in UIP across the country in 1st quarter has put the country in a comfortable position with additional stockpile of syringes as consumption was less.
For Pfizer's mRNA vaccine, the syringe required is 0.3 ml AD and HMD has rapidly developed that as well. Nath has written to the government to advice on the quantity needed and consider giving them time to change the 0.5 ml syringes to a 0.3 ml syringe. The company has developed 0.3ml AD syringes in anticipation of demand from UNICEF.
HMD has already shipped over 110 million pieces of KOJAK Auto Disable syringes to COVAX, which means around 120 countries around the world will be using syringes made in India for Covid vaccination drive.
The Central government says it is in a comfortable position vis-à-vis delivery of syringes. The shortage of PPE kits and masks in the beginning of the pandemic had hampered early responses to the infection, but now the aim is to build the stockpile of syringes needles and vials so that there is no question of a shortage.
One of the largest makers of syringes, HMD says it is increasing its output of auto-disable devices which prevent re-use from 700 million a year to one billion by 2021 to meet the demand.
This also showcases the power of India’s manufacturing capabilities. UNICEF has ordered 140 million syringes from HMD for COVAX, a global initiative aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of vaccines in poorer nations. There are primarily three companies in India making Auto Disable syringes and and are expected to deliver to the government. Besides HMD at Faridaba, Iscon Surgicals in Jodhpur and Becton Dickinson at Bawal are involved in the process.