The season for flu vaccine is not far away and in the UK alone millions of vaccine doses will be administered, almost every one from a single-use pre-filled syringe. In the US, approximately 150 million doses of flu vaccine will be administered during the autumn and winter influenza season – one injection will be given to almost 1 in every 2 US citizens!
Safe in Common, a non-profit organization established to promote needlestick safety and build a community of healthcare safety advocates, today issued a reminder to healthcare facilities and other public sites that will administer the flu vaccine to use syringes with safety features that can protect providers from the risk needlestick injuries.
The risk of deep sharps injury is small as the needles are of fine gauge and are short and for most vaccine products the route of administration is subcutaneous. However, the risk of any sharps injury remains, both during vaccine administration and during later disposal.
Safety engineered pre-filled syringes are available but are most costly and have increased costs in disposal – being larger the weight of additional plastic and greater bulk will have an impact in disposal costs. There is no doubt that to comply with US sharps safety requirements, and here in the UK with Council Directive 2010/32/EU, engineered sharps safety devices should be introduced.
The additional cost has not been planned, and for many trusts forward planning for additional cost in future years has received little serious attention.
This is of serious concern, for if NHS Trusts and PCTs will not address staff and patient safety during flu vaccination it seems unlikely that IV drug users will be considered at all for the supply though needle exchange schemes of engineered safety sharps. Thus, for the group with the highest incidence of bloodborne virus infection, for whom safe disposal of used sharps is an improbability, safety is to be bypassed in preference to cost-saving. That does not bode well for sharps safety.