Syringe, needle suppliers gear up for global shortages
Published: Jan 18, 2021 08:13 PM

A resident receives a free COVID-19 vaccination in Shanghai on January 7, 2021. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

China's syringe and needle suppliers are planning to expand production for sales to epidemic-hit countries such as the US, which have reportedly experienced shortages of such items during their vaccination campaigns.

Some vaccination sites, including those represented by Premier, a health-care company that represents an alliance of more than 4,100 health systems in the US, have expressed concerns over syringe and needle shortages, the Washington Post reported on January 14. US health authorities are working with Pfizer and a distributor to increase syringe and needle supplies, the report said.

China is the world's largest syringe producer, taking around 50 percent of the global market and has the capacity for booming demand, Chen Hongyan, secretary-general of the Medical Appliances Branch of the China Medical Pharmaceutical Material Association, told the Global Times on Monday. The nation's market share has been boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A syringe and needle industry insider surnamed Huang told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that companies in the industry are "adjusting production to make way for COVID-19 vaccines, but still have difficulty in filling the gap."  

Zhejiang KangKang Medical Devices Co, a large syringe maker based in East China's Zhejiang Province, has seen an unprecedented jump in inquiries, mostly from abroad.

"Before the epidemic, order inquiries were for about 1 to 2 million syringes but now they are up to hundreds of millions, mainly from middlemen," Guo Chun, an executive at Zhejiang Kangkang, told the Global Times on Monday.

Guo said it's likely that the supplies may go to major world vaccine makers such as Pfizer via middlemen, and to countries like the US. The company is also in close contact with domestic vaccine supplier SinoPharm about syringes, Guo said.

The company plans to expand its annual production capacity from 250 million syringes to 1 billion by April, Guo added.

Another syringe producer Jiangxi Sanxin Medtec Co was quoted in a media report in late December as saying that its production capacity was adequate but could be quickly expanded if necessary.

Rising syringe demand is being reflected in producers' financial results. Jiangxi Sanxin Medtec Co estimated on Sunday that its 2020 net profits hit 117-126 million yuan, up 90-105 percent year-on-year.

Industry insiders predicted that global orders for syringes will rise for months, especially possible production disruptions due to the pandemic, and the time for Chinese suppliers to expand capacity is running short.

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