Thai Researchers Develop Robotic System to Squeeze Out More Vaccine Doses

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Researchers in Thailand have developed a machine to draw out COVID-19 vaccine doses more efficiently and optimize supplies.

Using a robotic arm, the AutoVacc system can draw 12 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a vial in four minutes, according to the Chulalongkorn University researchers.

That is up 20% from the standard 10 doses drawn manually, they said. The machine only works on AstraZeneca multidose vials.

“The extra 20% that we get means that if we have AstraZeneca for 1 million people, this machine can increase the number of doses to 1.2 million people,” lead researcher Juthamas Ratanavaraporn said.

While some health workers can draw up to 12 doses per vial using syringes designed to reduce waste, it requires a high level of skill, Juthamas said. “This could drain a lot of the health workers’ energy. They would have to do this every day for many months.” 

Through September 2021, about 9% of Thailand’s more than 66 million people had been fully vaccinated, with the rollout hindered by lower-than-anticipated vaccine supplies.

The research team said it should be able to produce 20 more AutoVacc units within three or four months but that government funds and support would be needed to expand nationwide.

The prototype machine costs 2.5 million baht (U.S. $76,243), including associated materials such as syringes, Juthamas said. The researchers also plan to make similar machines to use with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, she added.

Juthamas said the machines will ease the burden on health workers. “When the health workers are too tired, there are also chances of human error, so we should let the machines work on this,” she said.  Reuters

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