Japanese medical equipment maker Terumo Corp. on Wednesday began production of syringes that can yield seven shots per vial of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.

The new syringe has a 16 millimeter-long needle, 3 mm longer than the company's conventional product, as intramuscular shots are necessary for COVID-19 vaccines. It has less dead space, meaning that less fluid is left after a shot, according to Terumo.

Supplied photo shows a low dead space syringe developed by Terumo Corp. that can yield seven shots per vial of Pfizer Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy of Terumo Corp.)(Kyodo)

The company plans to manufacture about 20 million syringes in fiscal 2021 from April at its factory in Yamanashi Prefecture near Tokyo.

In early March, Terumo obtained approval from Japan's health ministry to produce and sell the new syringe, which is modeled after its existing one developed in response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Japan has lagged behind the United States and some European nations in starting inoculations. The country is receiving vaccines from Pfizer, Britain's AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc. of the United States, but concerns about a supply shortage remain.

Securing special syringes that can maximize the number of shots extracted from each vial is also a challenge as syringes widely used in Japan have dead space and yield just five shots.

A hospital in Kyoto Prefecture, western Japan, has found that insulin syringes can be used for the Pfizer vaccine and can extract seven doses from each vial.