Japan has secured 144 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, but is short on special syringes that can draw out all six doses in each vial. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Japan could be forced to throw away millions of doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine because of a shortage of a special syringe, as inoculations are scheduled to begin after Sunday.
Norihisa Tamura, Japan's health minister, said Tuesday that the lack of syringes that can pump out six shots of the vaccine in each vial means leftover vaccines and fewer inoculations, NHK and Jiji Press reported.
Regular syringes, which are available, only can draw up five doses.
"We will use all the syringes we have that can draw six doses, but it will, of course, not be enough as more shots are administered," Tamura said Tuesday.
Japan has ordered and secured 144 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Two shots are administered three weeks apart for each recipient.
The shortage of special syringes means the country can only deliver 120 million doses, or enough to cover 60 million people, rather than 72 million.
The loss of vaccines that could have covered an additional 12 million people is the result of bureaucratic inaction, according to Jiji Press.
"When the contract was made, we were not absolutely sure that one bottle could be used for six shots. We can't deny we were slow to confirm that," a health ministry source told the Japanese news service.
Tokyo has ordered increased production of low dead space syringes, but procurement could be competitive. The United States and Europe are keeping up with high demand amid a rollout effort to inoculate hundreds of millions of citizens.
Japan has confirmed more than 400,000 cases of COVID-19 and 6,476 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The country is implementing a declaration of emergency for 10 regions, including the Tokyo metropolitan area, in effect through March 7.
Japanese authorities have said the Tokyo Olympics will take place as scheduled this summer, but have not ruled out limiting spectators.