By G9ija

The U.N. children’s fund UNICEF said on Tuesday it had sent an initial 100,000 syringes for COVID-19 vaccines to the Maldives in preparation for first deliveries of Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots under the COVAX vaccine-sharing 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 recipient countries in the first wave of shipments include Ivory Coast and Sao Tome and Principe.

Tuesday’s shipment will be followed in the next few weeks by deliveries of some 14.5 million 0.5 millilitre (ml) and 0.3 ml syringes to more than 30 countries, UNICEF said in a statement.

The COVAX facility – co-led by the World Health Organization, the GAVI vaccine alliance and others – earlier this month allocated around 330 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for poorer 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 in every country before the vaccine arrives so that the vaccine can be administered safely,” said UNICEF’s executive director Henrietta Fore.

This would allow immunisation to start immediately, she said, and “help turn the tide on this terrible virus”.

UNICEF said the 0.5 ml syringes would be for use with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine made by Serum Institute of India, and the 0.3 ml ones would be for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.