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There’s a national shortage of low dead space needles

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 4:59 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Currently, there is a shortage of low dead space needles. These specific types of syringes help eliminate any waste of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The low dead space needles have been around for a while. But they haven’t been nearly as important because we haven’t had a product like this that has been so valuable and in such a small quantity,” the Antimicrobial Stewardship Coordinator with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Scott Bergman, said.

Bergman explained how a dead space needle works.

“These are specially designed so that almost everything is pushed out of the needle and then into the patient,” he said.

He said a regular dead space needle usually reserves about .08mL of whatever fluid is inside.

“The amount of dead space in the very end is where the plunger pushes up against the needle and you can’t eject it out,” Bergman explained.

Bergman said low dead space needles are usually shipped from the federal government with the Pfizer vaccine. It allows health care workers to get even more doses out of the tiny glass bottles used for the vaccine.

“Really it’s about the size of my pinky. So, five doses in there,” he added.

He said sometimes they’re able to get six maybe even seven doses out of one bottle.

If you’re wondering how big one dose of the Pfizer vaccine is, Bergman made it a little easier to visualize.

“I’ve been doing a lot of cooking with my kids during the pandemic using that quarter teaspoon to measure out salt. And you can get four vaccine doses into that tiny quarter teaspoon of the Pfizer vaccine,” he explained.

Bergman said they have normally received the low dead space needles, but because of the shortage, there are times when they are not available. However, he says when they do come they’re extremely helpful.

He said they have been able to vaccinate more than 15,000 employees.

“We’re really able to stretch the vaccine and happy to be able to give it back to the county and let them use it for seniors now,” Bergman added.

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