COVID-19 Surge in China Causes Oximeter Shortage

Following China’s loosening of pandemic control measures earlier this month, the number of cases across the country has soared, while demand for drugs and medical supplies such as antipyretics, antigen tests and oximeters has skyrocketed.

According to data provided by JD Health, in the past week, turnover for oximeters increased 61 times year-on-year. On December 23, 2022, within the top selling list of oximeters on, the sales volume of the top 30 products in the past 30 days was about 830,000 pieces. Oximeters have now basically sold out on major Chinese e-commerce platforms and offline pharmacies. Some consumers said that they bought oximeters from multiple brands simultaneously on an e-commerce platform, but none of them have been delivered so far, so they still need to wait.

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A Tmall store staff member said that “customers generally buy them for the elderly.” On the evening of December 21, Zhang Wenhong, the director of the infectious diseases department at Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, said in a lecture that people should be alert to the “silent hypoxia” of the elderly, and suggested that families should buy a simple finger pulse oximeter for those over 80 years old, to monitor whether the high-risk infected people have severe risks.

In Zhang’s view, compared with young people, the elderly respond slower to viruses. If the blood oxygen saturation is lower than 93%, the risk is higher.

In fact, for many people, oximeter is a medical device that is not frequently used in daily life. In addition to the fingertip oximeter mentioned above, there are many products with similar functions on the market, such as wrist pulse oximeters, hand-held pulse oximeters and desktop pulse oximeters. The difference is that the fingertip oximeter is relatively small, easy to use and more affordable, so it is used more at home.

Because home-use oximeters are out of stock, many consumers are turning to buying smart watches with blood oxygen monitoring functions. On some social platforms, it is not uncommon to see notes that recommend people to use smart watches to monitor their blood oxygen.

However, unlike the shortage of antipyretics and masks, the shortage of oximeters has nothing to do with raw materials. According to a report by Jiemian News, the production of home-use oximeters mainly involves assembly, so it is only needed to increase production lines and capacity will rise rapidly. According to a source at Guangdong Biolight Meditech, when the pandemic outbreak in Hong Kong was serious in February this year, the company increased production by 350,000 oximeters to support the city, and the production increase took about one month. This suggests that the oximeter shortage may soon be improved.