Every year, about 16 billion injections are administered across the world, but the needles and syringes aren’t always properly disposed of afterwards. Consequently, 1.3 million people die each year as a result.
Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is looking to change that. The agency is launching a new policy on injection safety in an effort to tackle the pervasive issue of unsafe injections and used syringe disposal.
The new guidelines and policy provide detailed recommendations highlighting the value of syringes’ safety features, which include devices that protect others from accidental needle injury and consequent exposure to infection.
WHO also stresses in a statement that the number of unnecessary injections need to be reduced, as it’s a critical way to reduce the risk of exposing people to infections via contaminated needles. According to the agency’s estimates, some 90% of the 16 billion injections administered each year are given into muscle or skin to administer the medicines, a vast majority of which could be replaced by oral medications.
“Adoption of safety-engineered syringes is absolutely critical to protecting people worldwide from becoming infected with HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases. This should be an urgent priority for all countries,” says Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, the Director of the WHO HIV/AIDS Department, in a press release.
The Washington Post reports that, today, there are more than 70 different single-use syringes, which each features a different way to prevent people from re-using them. One model, the K-1 syringe, has a plunger that breaks off if someone tries to reload it. On another design, there’s a metal clip that blocks the plunger so it can’t be moved back. In others, the needle retracts into the syringe barrel at the end of the injection.
“The new policy represents a decisive step in a long-term strategy to improve injection safety by working with countries worldwide,” Dr Edward Kelley, Director of the WHO Service Delivery and Safety Department, in a statement. “We have already seen considerable progress.”