China’s syringe, needle producers struggle as orders rise
Published: Jan 28, 2021 09:13 PM

Staff inspect the sterile needles and syringe bottles for the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Chinese syringe and needle companies quadruple prices for their manufactured products amid surging demand. They are sending clear warnings that their capacity is fully accounted for despite production expansions, with some orders waiting till August. 

However, new orders for hundreds of millions of syringes have still been arriving in recent weeks and months, mostly from the US, against the backdrop of the country ramping up orders for vaccine and protective equipment.

While the US Food and Drug Administration gave approval for health care providers to squeeze out an extra dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine from many vials, the country's supply of syringes is inadequate in terms of numbers, media reported.

Shanghai Kindly Enterprise Development Group (KDL), a major syringe and needle supplier, has seen its orders being put on queue until August amid rising purchases from abroad, mostly from the US and UK, which are now taking about 80 percent of the company's total exports.

The company started receiving orders from the US half a year ago, but as production capacity has reached its limits, the products being made now for the US market were ordered half a year ago, a manager surnamed Wang with KDL told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Now they are continuing to place more orders, but our capacity is already full, and new orders may only be delivered after August," said Wang.

To expand vaccine distribution, Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to funnel funds and assistance to companies that make low dead-space syringes such as Becton Dickinson (BD), the Daily Mail reported.

However, of the 286 million needles and syringes that BD is set to deliver in the US by March, only 40 million will be low dead-space ones, the Washington Post reported, citing the company.

"Today it's harder to get vaccines than nuclear weapons," said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who also expressed concern that syringes and needles are the two things that are most needed around the world, media reported.

The surge in demand has caused the market price of syringes to quadruple from 0.1 yuan ($0.015) since before the outbreak to 0.3-0.4 yuan now, while the profits of the company have not increased, Guo Chun, an executive at Zhejiang KangKang Medical Devices Co, a large syringe maker based in East China's Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Some 80 percent of the world's medical syringes and needles come from China. There are US manufacturers like BD, but they are obviously not making enough of their own products," said Guo, noting that BD now buys a lot from Chinese manufacturers including his company via middlemen.

Meanwhile, several producers who are already running at full swing are hesitant to further expand production, because they are afraid that extra investment in expansion will be in vain after this explosive round of orders.

As to Spring Festival, companies cannot run at full capacity during the holiday. Meanwhile, demand will continue to increase, and the global price of syringes may reach a record high in March, Guo predicted.

Jiangxi Sanxin Medtec Co, another large syringe producer, is also dealing with strong orders.

While managing to plan the timely delivery of existing orders and production scheduling for new orders, they are doing their best to prepare goods for production before and during the Spring Festival holiday, the company said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Thursday.