Govt to call bids for syringes this month

The government is likely to float a tender this month to procure as many as 480 million auto-disable syringes as it prepares for a mass covid-19 vaccination programme, two people aware of the government’s plans said.

Auto-disable syringes become unusable once they are used. These are used in vaccination programmes to prevent transmission of serious infections such as Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HIV.

“We are preparing to float a tender to procure syringes for covid-19 vaccines. We are still in the process of finalizing how many syringes we need, but that may be decided this month,” one of the two people, a government official, said on condition of anonymity.

This will add to the current inventory of syringes with the government, which industry officials estimate is around 500-600 million currently because of the slow pace of the universal immunization programme. These syringes can be used for covid-19 vaccination.

A health ministry spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a query seeking comment.

Governments around the world are stockpiling syringes, a shortage of which may cause an undesired bottleneck as they roll out the covid immunization programme. Many countries, including the US, UK and Canada, have lined up supplies in anticipation of regulatory approvals to vaccines.

By July, India expects 400-500 million doses of a covid vaccine, which is widely expected to be Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, the shot developed by the University of Oxford in collaboration with AstraZeneca Plc.

In the last two tenders, Chinese syringe makers were the lowest bidders, cornering 60% of the market, which industry officials cite as a major concern in case of a disruption.

Jodhpur-based Iscon Surgicals Ltd, which was the second-lowest bidder, has orders for 52.2 million auto-disable syringes till May and is expecting more orders, vice-president Sandeep Bhandari said.

Others such as Hindustan Syringes and Medical Devices and BD India said they are awaiting further clarity. BD India does not have any orders and is serving requests from other countries. “Considering the dynamic situation and various countries at different stages of procurement and planning, we are awaiting government of India’s response on volumes required,” said Pavan Mocherla, managing director for BD India and South Asia.

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