INCREASE CAPACITY

Kenyan firm to produce syringes amid looming shortage in Africa

Revital estimates Gates support will create more than 100 direct new jobs and over 5,000 indirect ones.

In Summary

•Revital Healthcare Limited is expected to use the funds to expand production of auto-disable vaccine syringes.

•This comes amid fears by the World Health Organisation that there is a looming shortage of syringes in Africa.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe visits Revital Healthcare Plant in Kilifi
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe visits Revital Healthcare Plant in Kilifi
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

A Kenyan medical supplies manufacturer has received more than Sh400 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to ramp up syringes production.

Revital Healthcare Limited is expected to use the funds to expand production of auto-disable vaccine syringes from a volume of approximately 72 million to more than 265 million annually by the end of 2022.

This will be enough to cover more than half of the routine immunization needs in Africa.

This comes amid fears by the World Health Organization that there is likelihood of a shortage of syringes in Africa.

“Early next year, Covid-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyse progress. Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, fast. Countless African lives depend on it,” WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said.

Revital, a company based in Mombasa, manufactures more than 45 medical devices ranging from various syringes, rapid Covid antigen test kits, rapid malaria test kits, oxygen products, PPE, surgical face masks and viral transport medium kits.

The company is the preferred manufacturer for 21 countries around the world as well as for Unicef, WHO  and various government agencies.

Global demand for auto-disable syringes has surged in 2021 as the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines has progressed around the world.

Recent estimates project that there will be a significant shortfall in auto-disable syringes next year, which would acutely impact both Covid-19 vaccination and childhood immunization, including the roll-out of new malaria vaccines, in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa.

“Expanding manufacturing capacity in Africa for critical supplies like syringes is essential to ensure adequate supply for the continent,” sales, marketing and development director at Revital Healthcare Roneek Vora said.

“We are proud to be part of global efforts to help ensure that Africans have access to life-saving vaccination. Revital Healthcare’s goal is to become the largest medical disposables manufacturer in Africa by 2030, helping the continent produce more of its own crucial healthcare commodities,” Vora added.

Expanding Revital’s manufacturing capacity will geographically diversify the global supplier base of syringes, mitigate transportation costs, and help stabilize supply in Africa.

There are so far more than 20 auto-disable syringe manufacturers prequalified by the WHO globally.

However, Revital Healthcare Limited is currently the only WHO prequalified manufacturer for vaccine syringes in Africa that is contracted by Unicef and WHO for syringe supply.

For more than two decades, auto-disable syringes have been the mainstay of vaccination campaigns in low- and middle-income countries, as their fixed needle and locking mechanism prevents re-use, minimizing transmission of blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis B and HIV.

“With the increasing availability of new vaccines against Covid-19, we are on the verge of critical shortages of the syringes needed to safely vaccinate people,” director of Global Delivery Programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Orin Levine said.

Orin added: “We’re proud to be supporting a significant expansion of syringe manufacturing in Africa, for Africa, to assure a stable supply of safe auto-disable syringes for vaccinating people against Covid-19 and a host of other preventable diseases.”

Revital estimates that this support will lead to the creation of more than 100 direct new jobs and over 5,000 indirect jobs out of which Revital has committed to ensuring that at least 50 per cent of new hires are women.

Revital also aims to expand continuously by manufacturing various medical devices, hence, supporting more jobs, boosting the economy and assisting LMIC’s.

“With the support Revital is one step closer in ensuring that we fight these deadly diseases that are killing millions of people worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries” Revital chairman Rajni Vora said.

Moeti said UNICEF predicts a global shortage of around two billion syringes needed for Covid-19 vaccine and routine immunizations.

Edited by Henry Makori