New WHO ‘Guidelines on the use of safety-engineered syringes for… injections in health-care settings’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released (on 23/2/2015) new guidelines on the use of safety engineered syringes for intramuscular, intradermal and subcutaneous injections in health care settings.

A 2014 study sponsored by WHO, estimated that in 2010:

  • up to 1.7 million people were infected with hepatitis B virus,
  • up to 315 000 with hepatitis C virus and
  • as many as 33 800 with HIV through an unsafe injection.

Millions of people could be protected from infections acquired through unsafe injections if all healthcare programmes switched to syringes that cannot be used more than once.

For these reasons, WHO is launching a new policy on injection safety to help all countries tackle the pervasive issue of unsafe injections.

WHO stresses the need to reduce the number of unnecessary injections as a critical way of reducing risk- many of the 16 billion injections administered each year are unnecessary or avoidable (an oral medication could have been administered).

The new “smart” syringes WHO recommends for injections into the muscle or skin have features that prevent re-use:

  • Some models include a weak spot in the plunger that causes it to break if the user attempts to pull back on the plunger after the injection.
  • Others have a metal clip that blocks the plunger so it cannot be moved back, while in others the needle retracts into the syringe barrel at the end of the injection.

Syringes are also being engineered with features to protect health workers from “needle stick” injuries and resulting infections.

WHO is urging countries to transition to the exclusive use of the new “smart” syringes by 2020, except in a few circumstances in which a syringe that blocks after a single use would interfere with the procedure. One example is when a person is on an intravenous pump that uses a syringe.

Useful links:

Link to Press release:

Link to WHO Guideline:

Link to WHO injection safety brochure:

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