Commentary: Plastics industry is handling a huge surge in demand for syringes

Dec. 8, 2020
Plastics processor Becton, Dickinson and Co. (BD) is working to meet the need, with a commitment to produce 1 billion syringes for governments and NGOs by the end of 2021.

We are on the cusp of having multiple COVID-19 vaccines available and there has been plenty written about their manufacture, shipping and distribution. But to get the vaccine into arms, it is going to take millions and millions of plastic syringes.

Plastics processors are churning out syringes or parts for syringes every day, but probably none are stepping up like Becton, Dickinson and Co. (BD), headquartered in Franklin Lakes, N.J., which claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of injection devices.

BD has committed to providing 1 billion injection devices to governments and non-governmental organizations around the world by the end of next year exclusively for COVID-19 vaccinations. A company spokesperson told Plastics Machinery Magazine that more than 800 million needles and syringes have already been committed to customers.

That is a huge production commitment, even for a global medical technology company with 65,000 employees and $18 billion in annual sales worldwide.

The U.S. government has ordered 286 million needles and syringes. BD began shipping those in September and expects to complete the order next spring.

To produce 1 billion additional devices in the next 12 months equates to nearly 2,000 per minute in addition to BD’s normal volumes, the spokesperson said.

The syringes are being manufactured at BD plants around the world, including U.S. plants in Canaan, Conn.; Columbus, Neb.; and Holdrege, Neb. The company said it has thousands of injection molding machines committed to producing syringes from PP and PE.

BD does not disclose exact production figures, but the spokesperson said in a normal year it manufactures billions of needles and syringes for a wide range of applications, such as insulin injections, annual flu vaccinations and childhood immunizations.

BD started ramping up production in March to meet the extreme surge in demand it anticipated the pandemic would cause.

The company said it has not needed a significant addition to its workforce. “We have been able to flex production schedules as well as provide additional employee training to meet production demands,” the spokesperson said.

There have been no supply chain issues. “The support from our partners — resin, machinery and various raw materials — has been unparalleled during the pandemic and we have not seen any issues arise.”

The company is also a major supplier of COVID-19 test kits, currently producing 8 million kits per month and ramping up to 12 million by March 2021.

Thank you to BD and all the other plastics processors now manufacturing huge quantities of syringes and test kits.

Disagreement between the current and incoming presidential administrations during the past week about the nation’s vaccination plan has raised syringe production in the national consciousness. I predict plastics manufacturers will make sure plenty of syringes are available.

Ron Shinn, editor

About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.