How South Korea supplied the specialized COVID-19 vaccine syringes

Summary: Find out how the government could persuade and help Poonglim, which had only about 80 employees, to rapidly increase production of low dead space syringes (LDS), a type of syringe designed to minimize the amount of medicine left in the device after injection. .

“It could help us get more vaccines,” Cha recalls, then-then-Minister Park Young-sun.

Under fire from the local media for not doing enough to secure COVID-19 vaccines, the South Korean government has looked at options to speed up shipments and get more supply. Closing a leap in LDS syringe production was an opportunity to take advantage, he concluded.

Niche products suddenly had a huge global demand, after it became apparent that they could be used to squeeze the sixth dose from the vials of Pfizer Inc. and the new COVID-19 vaccine approved by BioNTech, compared to five doses with a standard syringe.

“We were warned that Pfizer was looking for LDS syringes … the use of LDS syringes automatically increases the volume of the vaccine by 20%,” Park told Reuters.

Among the LDS syringe manufacturers in South Korea, Poonglim was chosen for special attention.

Its products are the lightest domestic models to use, according to health workers in South Korea, comfortably taking six doses from a bottle of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and often seven with an experienced hand. Poonglim also had its own patents.

Thus, a strategy was pursued to promote Poonglim’s syringes, increase production, and thus Pfizer increases the supply of what had become a few weeks earlier the first COVID-19 blow that was approved in the United Kingdom and the United States.

LDS syringes can also mean more profits for drug manufacturers, as most contracts are based on an approved regulatory dose number to be extracted from each vial.

In the weeks that followed, government officials brought the expertise of the country’s largest conglomerate, Samsung, to help rebuild production lines, facilitate talks with Pfizer and guide Poonglim through regulatory procedures, the vice president told Reuters to Poonglim, Cho Mi-heui. The Ministry of Small Enterprises has also contributed to lending to Poonglim.

It was not the first time that South Korea has made a decisive move in the fight against coronavirus. At the beginning of the pandemic, the country had won applause for aggressive pursuit and pursuit of contacts.

The government also relied on its big business recruitment strategy to get fast results for small businesses after using similar tactics to boost the production of face masks and test kits.

LDS syringes have helped Pfizer obtain regulatory permission in some countries to relabel its vials as having six doses.

This new label, in parallel with the expansion and improvement of production and the addition of more suppliers and contract manufacturers, allowed Pfizer in January to raise its projection for the doses of vaccine it can supply globally in 2021, from 1.3 billion. to 2 billion. More recently, it has raised that forecast to nearly $ 2.5 billion.

Pfizer said in a statement to Reuters that it had managed to speed up shipments in the first quarter to South Korea and 30 other countries because of these improvements.

Seoul announced in late February that deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – of which it had ordered 26 million doses directly from Pfizer – would begin arriving in March, six months earlier than first scheduled.


Cha, the deputy minister for small business, said Poonglim sent samples to Pfizer on January 2, and the US company returned a week later with positive feedback. All in all, it took less than two months from the day he was told to travel to Poonglim to be released from Poonglim’s syringes by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Pfizer stated that it has no commercial agreement with Poonglim and declined to comment on any interaction with the syringe manufacturer.

In South Korea, the government’s swift action on LDS syringes is being promoted by President Moon Jae-in as a major pandemic success story.

Poonglim’s annual production capacity has increased more than sevenfold in less than four months to 360 million, and the company has become one of the world’s largest producers of LDS syringes, according to the Ministry of Small Business.

The South Korean company now also has an informal relationship with Pfizer, in which the US drug manufacturer introduces potential customers, allowing Poonglim to approach and process transactions, according to Cho.

Poonglim signed an agreement this month to provide Japan with 30 million syringes over the next six months, she added. The Japanese government agencies overseeing the COVID-19 response declined to comment on their procurement policies.

Cho also said that Poonglim is in talks with customers in Europe and the United States about the supply of LDS syringes, but declined to elaborate.

Poonglim is also among the LDS syringes presented in an information package for healthcare professionals prepared by BioNTech. Other products on the list include LDS syringes manufactured by major manufacturers such as Becton Dickinson and B. Braun.

BioNTech stated that its list of LDS syringes was compiled for information purposes and neither he nor Pfizer guaranteed their quality or offered a guarantee.

While vaccination in South Korea is slower than campaigns in the UK or US due to access to vaccines, the relative abundance of LDS syringes has helped it deliver 1.77 million people or 3, 4% of its population at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.

By comparison, Japan managed vaccinations for 1.39 million, or 1.1% of its population, despite starting the inoculation campaign nine days earlier.

Also this month, Seoul recommended the use of LDS syringes for all COVID-19 vaccines, not just the Pfizer vaccine.


Poonglim was initially reluctant to work with the government and Samsung when they offered help, worrying that the tech giant could steal proprietary technology, according to Cho Poonglim.

But the conglomerate had worked wonders, she said.

Samsung Bioepis, Samsung’s drug research group, made introductions to Pfizer and helped Poonglim navigate the US FDA clearance process.

Samsung Electronics helped Poonglim change the design of the syringe, which not only made mass production easier, but also reduced the amount of wasted vaccine and made it safer to use. It also helped restore Poonglim’s assembly lines, increasing automation to raise output capacity, she added.

Samsung Bioepis sent Reuters questions to Samsung Electronics, which declined to comment.

Production capacity has increased – from about 4 million LDS syringes per month in December to 10 million by February and then more recently with the construction of a new factory to 30 million per month.

The number of employees has also increased to about 400 people.

This story was published from an agency stream with no changes to the text.

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