The global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues, with many countries presently undertaking largescale immunisation programs. While Pfizer and Moderna were the first companies to have their coronavirus vaccines approved for widespread public use, many others have since followed suit. But even as an increasing number of vaccine doses are made available, it is not enough to inoculate the global population.
Even as many western countries run low on vaccine supplies, others are yet to begin their inoculation drives. The problems are manifold - from allegations of vaccine nationalism to a lack of resources.
While some countries - including those in Africa do not have enough vaccines, other nations such as the US and Canada are running low after having begun their inoculation drives.
And in Japan, the lack of special syringes means all the doses in each bottle of the vaccine cannot be utilised.
According to reports, Japan is facing a syringe shortage that means fewer people will get the vaccine. Not only that, the lack of special syringes means that out of every six doses in a vial, Japan's medical workers will only be able to extract five. Simply put, the country is likely to waste around 24 million doses of its Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine stock after it begins its inoculation drive.
Additionally, since Japan had acquired vials operating on the assumption that each bottle could deliver six doses, it will not be enough for the country's people.
"The syringes used in Japan can only draw five doses. We will use all the syringes we have that can draw six doses, but it will, of course, not be enough as more shots are administered," Japan health minister Norihisa Tamura was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency.
As per a Japan Today article, the country plans to begin the vaccination drive with medical workers, followed by the elderly. Those with health conditions and people working at elderly care facilities would come next.
Reportedly, the country has signed contracts to procure 314 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca PLC, Moderna Inc and Pfizer. This is enough for 157 million people - higher than Japan's population of 126 million. According to another report, Japan has secured 144 million shots of the Pfizer vaccine which should ideally serve to vaccinate 72 million people.
With the syringe issue affecting the Pfizer doses however, around 12 million people will be unable to receive the vaccine.