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Programs that screen newborns for potentially deadly genetic conditions will now have higher priority when ordering pipette tips — a critical laboratory supply that is in shortage.

STAT highlighted the pipette tip shortage, which is affecting researchers across the country, on Wednesday.

Later that day, a working group within the Department of Health and Human Services officially granted prioritization to newborn screening programs, according to a memo it sent to the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

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“Based on the market share and the critical role this program plays in public health, distribution of U.S. supply of pipette tips should be prioritized for state public health laboratories for use in newborn screening programs and related testing,” the memo reads.

The document was signed by Michael Iademarco, the director of the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It did not name specific manufacturers or distributors.

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It isn’t clear how suppliers are allocating most pipette tip orders across the country, and few would comment on the process when STAT asked. The one thing that is understood: Companies must prioritize federal Covid-19 contracts under the Defense Production Act. (PCR tests and other diagnostics require pipettes.)

HHS also has a Covid-19 diagnostics and testing working group, which distributes testing supplies to public health laboratories and groups and regularly communicates with supply distributors, according to its website.

About 160 million pipette tips are required each year to screen every newborn in the country, experts estimated.

“Please use this memo, if necessary, with your pipette tip suppliers for newborn screening labs in the event you encounter any continuing problems,” the APHL advised its members.