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Did Japan Throw Away Millions of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses?

Why do some people think that Japan is throwing away millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses?

Japan didn't really throw away any of their COVID-19 vaccines.

Maybe because they kind of are…

Did Japan Throw Away Millions of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses?

Wait, what?

Really?

Yes, but the real story is likely different from what you are imagining from the above headlines. After all, they aren’t throwing out vials of COVID-19 vaccines! Instead, they aren’t able to take advantage of the fact that those vials contain an extra dose of vaccine if you use specialized, low-dead space syringes.

“The country said last month that it had secured doses for 72 million people based on the assumption that each vial could provide six shots. But without low dead space syringes, which minimize the amount of vaccine left in the syringe after use, a vial ends up yielding only five doses — enough for 60 million people.”

Fewer people in Japan to get Pfizer vaccine due to syringe shortage

So by using regular syringes, they are technically throwing out million of doses of COVID-19 that are left in the dead space of syringes that they have used to vaccinate and protect people in Japan.

Dead space?

The dead space is the space between the needle and the plunger.

It's easy to see the difference in the amount of fluid left/wasted in a standard syringe vs a low dead space syringe.
It’s easy to see the difference in the amount of fluid left/wasted in a standard syringe vs a low dead space syringe – nearly 0.09 ml, which is a big deal with a vaccine that doses at just 0.3 ml.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, folks were already talking about low dead space needles and syringes, because in addition to vaccines, medications and blood might remain in the dead space after an injection. In the case of high cost medications, using low dead space syringes can help control costs. But even more important, if IV drug users share high dead space needles, they risk spreading blood-borne viruses!

The bottom line?

Japan and everyone else needs more low dead space syringes and needles to maximize use of the COVID-19 vaccines that we have. And we need more COVID-19 vaccines to get everyone vaccinated and protected.

More on COVID-19 Vaccines

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