Brazil fails to get enough syringes for inoculations

Brazil runs the risk of not having enough syringes to distribute vaccines.
Brazil runs the risk of not having enough syringes to distribute vaccines.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA • Brazilian syringe and needle makers have warned that the country's coronavirus vaccination programme was at risk after the government set auction prices too low and failed to draw bids for enough syringes to meet its requirements.

The Health Ministry sought to buy 331 million syringes at an electronic auction on Tuesday but purchased just eight million, or 2.5 per cent of its target, after it set reference prices below companies' bids.

That means that Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the crisis and which already lags behind neighbours Chile and Argentina in rolling out a vaccine, runs the risk of not having enough syringes to distribute vaccines.

Brazil has not yet approved a vaccine and there is no clear date to begin a vaccination programme.

The country has recorded the world's third-highest number of Covid-19 cases, at more than 7.6 million, and the second-highest death toll, at almost 195,000.

The Health Ministry set the number of syringes and needles to be provided and an estimated price for the auction.

Mr Paulo Henrique Fraccaro, head of Brazil's medical supplies and equipment industry lobby group Abimo, said on Wednesday: "The reference prices set by the government have no relation to the reality that syringe companies are living."

The ministry offered 13 centavos (3 Singapore cents) per syringe, while companies were asking for between 22 centavos and 48 centavos depending on the item, Mr Fraccaro said.

Given that Sao Paulo, the richest state, has already bought 50 million syringes and plans to buy another 50 million, the entire country would need some 320 million syringes, which would cost at most 120 million reais, added Mr Fraccaro.

The prospect of running out of syringes could cause panic in the country or lead to more costly imports, he warned.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2021, with the headline 'Brazil fails to get enough syringes for inoculations'. Print Edition | Subscribe