While pharmaceutical companies worldwide test an estimated 70 possible coronavirus vaccines, the US government is making plans to get the vaccine to the American public as quickly as possible.
The Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Department of Defense awarded Apiject Systems America a $138 million contract to supply 100 million pre-filled syringes for the coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year and to supply more than 500 million next year.
Apiject CEO Jay Walker told CBN News the prefilled syringes will be manufactured using the "Blow, Fill, Seal" technology used to make pre-filled, single-use eyedrops with which many consumers are familiar.
"There are eyedropper facilities in the US, not many, but a few, that we are going to upgrade so they can handle vaccines," he said. "Then what will happen is those facilities will make the containers that will hold the vaccine, we will add a needle hub to them and you have a pre-filled syringe that's ready to use."
There is space on each pre-filled syringe for an optional Radio Frequency Identification Chip containing a unique serial number for each dose. It would not be injected or touch the patient. The chip would be scanned by health care workers in order to better track overall vaccine information.
"It is designed so there is no counterfeiting. It's designed so we'll know the right dose hasn't expired," Walker explained. "However that chip only refers to the dose. There's no personal information, no patient information, it's simply like a bar code, only we know instantaneously where and when that dose has been used. That also helps public health officials know, when there are outbreaks, 'Have we vaccinated enough people in those areas?'"
The pre-filled syringes will add to the limited number of traditionally manufactured vaccine supplies such as small glass vials used for every dose, specialized equipment necessary to fill each glass jar, stoppers, needles, and syringes.
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At a May 7th US Senate hearing on coronavirus preparedness, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said once a vaccine is approved for general use, the next hurdle will be making enough doses for the American public in record time.
"People are worried about, 'Do we have enough medical-grade glass to put all of these doses of the vaccine into vials so that they can be administered?' And that's a serious issue to think about right now, even as we are anticipating, if all goes well, a vaccine may be available in millions of doses as soon as this fall," he said.
The Department of Defense says once the vaccines are mass-produced, they'll be delivered to health care providers nationwide with the speed and efficiency of the US military.
Originally published May 29, 2020.