Fourteen fast facts about syringes for childhood vaccines
If you didn’t know syringes are exciting, think again and find out how the syringe-vaccine symbiosis protects children from deadly and debilitating diseases.
1. Vaccines protect children from deadly and debilitating diseases such as measles and polio.
2. UNICEF vaccinates almost half of the world’s children. In 2022, UNICEF delivered nearly 2.5 billion doses of vaccine to 108 countries for childhood immunization programmes.
3. While some vaccines are given by mouth, most are injected with a syringe. One syringe is needed to administer each dose of vaccine.
4. On average, UNICEF pays between three and five cents of a US dollar per syringe. The dose of the actual vaccine often costs up to 100 times more. Yet, the vaccine is useless without the syringe.
5. UNICEF is the world’s largest buyer of syringes. On average, we deliver 900 million syringes for child vaccinations every year. Much of the funding comes from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
6. There are conventional and there are auto-disable syringes, which are specifically designed for vaccine delivery. Auto-disable syringes can only be used once. This is safer for children because it prevents a syringe from being re-used and potentially transmitting deadly bloodborne infections such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. UNICEF only buys auto-disable syringes for vaccine administration.
7. UNICEF favours syringes that are smaller and weigh less. This reduces transport costs and emissions. Smaller syringes also generate less waste.
8. Vaccines must be airlifted in order to keep the cold chain unbroken.
9. Syringes can be transported by sea or surface, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly. This longer lead time requires careful planning many months in advance when vaccination initiatives are coordinated.
10. In addition to vaccines and syringes, UNICEF delivers safety boxes for the used syringes. Through bundling – buying syringes and safety boxes from the same supplier – UNICEF and countries saves on administration, logistics and shipment costs.
11. UNICEF only buys syringes from manufacturers that are prequalified by the World Health Organization to ensure that they are safe and effective.
12. Almost half of UNICEF syringes help immunize children in sub-Saharan Africa. To further reduce transportation costs and emissions through local production, we are working with partners to bring the supply base closer to the demand base.
13. UNICEF has contracted the production of millions of auto-disable syringes from an Africa-based manufacturer which has achieved WHO prequalification as well as higher production capacity thanks to support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With local production emerging as priority, UNICEF is actively looking to increase its procurement from Africa-based suppliers.
14. Immunization is one of the world’s most effective public health interventions, protecting children from preventable disease, and giving them a chance to grow up healthy.