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Kilifi firm to supply Covid-19 vaccine syringes

A Kilifi-based medical firm has been contracted by UNICEF India to supply 50 million pieces of the 2ml vaccine syringes as the world braces for a shortage of the commodity.

Revital Healthcare EPZ Ltd in Kikambala, Kilifi County won the tender worth Sh150 million after a competitive bid with other leading manufacturers.

Because of the shortage of the 0.5ml syringes worldwide, UNICEF is looking at the next alternative syringe that could be used for vaccination.

“They have identified the 2ml because of the low dead space on the syringe so they can utilize the entire vial for the dosage of the patients,” said Revital Healthcare Sales, Marketing and Product Development Director Roneek Vora.

The medical supply manufacturer produces both 2ml two-part and 2ml three-part and has received contracts for both.

In addition, UNICEF Global has given the Kenyan firm a blanket contract for the whole of 2022, booking 100 per cent of the 0.5ml syringes produced.

Vora says they told the government many times that as a leading local manufacturer, they were ready to help it combat the global pandemic.

“We continually ask for the government’s support because by supporting us, they are supporting the 500 people working in this factory,” said Vora.

The firm started off in 2008 with just one product but has now expanded to 45 products with over 500 Stock Keeping Unit (SKUs).

Addressing media at the factory site in Kilifi County, Vora said it is a momentous achievement for both the company and Kenya as a whole to be exporting vaccine syringes to India for the first time in history.

“This is a plus for Kenya as a country and President Uhuru’s legacy of Buy Kenya, Build Kenya,” quipped Vora.

This comes as the leading medical supply manufacturer braces for an increased production of vaccine syringes following a Sh440 million grant it received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The grant will go into the manufacture of the 0.5ml auto-disable syringes used for Covid-19 vaccination globally.

He said since 2013, Revital Healthcare has produced about 74 million syringes a year but due to the increased global demand, the firm will have to triple its production to about 320 million syringes a year.

“We are planning to increase production further by another 100 -150 million by the following year. As per our promise to the foundation, we are going to re-invest our funds from these products to expand our product range,” said Vora.

This increase will require more manpower and the firm has announced it will require at least 100 more people to be employed.

“This will create more than 5,000 other jobs indirectly,” said Vora adding that this would be made possible through the Sh440 million grants received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

UNICEF has announced a possible deficit of about 2.2 billion auto-dispensable Covid-19 vaccine syringes globally by 2022.

The UN agency attributes the potential shortfall to significantly higher demand, disruptions to international freight and supply chains, an unpredictable supply of vaccines due to a significant reliance on much needed donated doses and national bans on syringe exports.

Vora said with the potential availability of malaria vaccines next year, there would be an even bigger demand for the specific 0.5ml vaccine syringes.

“With this deficit of up to 4 billion syringes, we want to reduce this gap as much as possible because most of the vaccine syringes will be coming to Africa,” said Vora.

He noted that the world has over concentrated on the vaccine and no one is looking at the syringes to go with the vaccines.

“Since March last year, we have been telling the world they are focusing too much on vaccines but no one is looking at syringes and that there is going to be a shortfall for this product. Today, we are witnessing the shortfall,” said Vora.

Last month, Kenya received a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine but they could not be administered because the Health Ministry said there were no syringes to administer it.

Revital Healthcare is Africa’s only WHO prequalified manufacturer for vaccine syringes. The firm is also bracing for increased demand for the vaccine syringes for malaria vaccines.

By Mohamed Hassan

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