LONDON (Reuters) – The UNICEF UN fund said on Tuesday it had sent 100,000 initial syringes for COVID-19 vaccines to the Maldives in preparation for the first shipments of Pfizer and AstraZeneca photos under the COVAX vaccine distribution plan.
The syringes, as well as 1,000 safety boxes for vaccine storage, are expected to arrive in the Maldives on Tuesday, UNICEF said. Other receiving countries in the first wave of shipments include Ivory Coast and Sao Tome and Principe.
Tuesday’s shipment will be followed in the coming weeks by shipments of about 14.5 million 0.5 milliliters (ml) and 0.3 ml syringes to more than 30 countries, UNICEF said in a statement.
The COVAX structure – led by the World Health Organization, the GAVI vaccine alliance and others – earlier this month allocated about 330 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries. It aims to deliver these and millions more in the first half of 2021.
“It is critical to have adequate supplies of syringes already in place before the vaccine arrives, so that the vaccine can be administered safely,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
This will allow immunization to begin immediately, she said, and “help reverse the flow of this horrible virus.”
UNICEF said the 0.5 ml syringes would be used with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India and those 0.3 ml would be for the Pfizer-BioNTech purpose.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)