Why are retractable needles used for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine? Busting the myths

Recently, there have been several videos circulating on social media focusing on a very specific part of vaccination: the needle. In these videos, when the vaccine is loaded in the syringe and injected into the patient’s arm, the needle is visible. But immediately after the injection, the needle appears to no longer be there. As a consequence, several myths have been widely spread, including that the needle is left inside the body and even some conspiracy theories about how the needles contain microchips.

There is a simple explanation for this phenomenon: the needle cannot be seen after injection because a retractable needle was used. Retractable needles make the vaccination process quicker, easier, and safer for healthcare providers.

How do retractable needles work?

Retractable needles are single-use products designed with a spring that pulls the needle inside the syringe immediately after the vaccine or medication is fully administered. After use, the needle remains in the interior of the syringe, reducing the possibility of an accidental needle stick injury to the healthcare providers or to the people in charge of disposal management.

Why is it important to use retractable needles?

The use of retractable needles is especially important during massive vaccination campaigns (like the one for COVID-19), since healthcare professionals see many patients in a short time This increases the possibility of having an accidental needle stick injury while recapping needles or disposing the used syringes.

Needles and syringes, aside from being vital instruments in vaccination, are also considered a source of infection to healthcare professionals and maintenance personnel. Used needles, like other sharp objects, are considered infectious or biological hazardous waste because the remains of blood or bodily fluids can be a source of infection to anyone who comes into contact with it.

There are several blood borne illnesses that could be transmitted if a doctor, nurse, lab technician, or maintenance employee accidentally gets pricked with a used needle from an infected patient. This represents an important hazard, and anyone who suffers an accidental needle stick injury with a used needle must be screened for infectious diseases for several months. In some cases, they would receive emergency antiretroviral treatment to avoid becoming infected with viruses like HIV or Hepatitis B or C, as these illnesses are chronic and do not have a cure.

In the case of the retractable needles, the needle remains inside the syringe, so that they cannot be reused. This makes them safer for everyone and guarantees that every patient gets a new needle.

International use of retractable needles

These syringes were invented by Thomas J. Shaw from Retractable Technologies, INC. The design has been awarded several prizes, including one from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA, due to its effectiveness and safety. In the United States alone, retractable needles could prevent more than 1,000 accidental needle stick injuries that happen on a daily basis, which represents a cost of more than 1 billion dollars in clinical testing and treatment for the affected healthcare workers.


Contributed by: Text and Image: Claudia Minutti

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