TOKYO – The Japanese government has decided not to procure insulin syringes intended for diabetes patients to administer COVID-19 vaccinations due to concerns of causing a supply shortage, the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout said Thursday.
“They’re meant for people who need to take insulin, and we don’t want there to be too few for their intended purpose,” Taro Kono told reporters, but added hospitals are free to use them for inoculations if they have a surplus.
Kono had said earlier this week the government would consider procuring insulin syringes as they can extract seven doses per vial of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine compared to the five doses possible with the type of syringe widely available in the country, which have more dead space and leave more fluid in the needle after a shot.
Japan launched its vaccination program in mid-February, but the effort has been marred by a failure to secure enough low dead space syringes as well as production delays at Pfizer’s factory in Belgium and uncertainty stemming from the European Union’s export controls.
Skepticism toward getting shots could also be a hurdle, with only 63.1 percent of respondents in a Kyodo News poll conducted last month saying they want to be inoculated against COVID-19.
“It’s a very effective vaccine, so I hope a lot of people get it,” Kono said Thursday after visiting the Tokyo Yamate Medical Center to watch hospital staff receive shots.
Some 4.8 million health care workers nationwide are currently eligible for vaccination, with the rollout to expand to people aged 65 or older in mid-April. People with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and those working at elderly care facilities are slated to come next.