Thailand develops machine to extract more vaccine

Thai researchers have developed a machine with a robotic arm that can extract COVID-19 vaccine doses more efficiently.

They hope it will help with the country's lower-than-anticipated vaccine supply.

According to researchers at Chulalongkorn University, the "AutoVacc" system uses the arm to draw 12 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a vial in four minutes.

That's up from the standard 10-11 doses drawn manually, as shown on the vial labels.

The extra 20% could mean more people can get inoculated.

So far, only around 9% of Thailand's population have been fully vaccinated.

Some health workers are already using low dead-space syringes to draw up to 12 doses per vial.

But the lead researcher of the team Juthamas Ratanavaraporn says it requires manpower and a high level of skill.

"In large vaccination centers such as the Bang Sue train station, they would need thousands or tens of thousands of nurses to draw vaccines each day. This could drain a lot of the health workers' energy. They would have to do this every day for many months, where I don't see the end of it in the near future. There could also be booster doses too, so inoculations will be with us for a while. So with this innovation, we think it will take some of that burden off of them. When the health workers are too tired, there are also chances of human error, so we should let the machines work on this."

The prototype machine costs over $76,000 and it only works on AstraZeneca multi-dose vials currently.

The team is planning to make similar machines for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Researchers say they should be able to produce 20 more AutoVacc units within three or four months.

But government funds and support would be needed to expand across the country.

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