A third person who died after a Moderna vaccine shot from a batch that was later recalled following contamination concerns has been identified in Japan, the health ministry said, adding that no causal link has been found.
The 49-year-old man died on 12 August, a day after receiving his second shot of Moderna vaccine. The man was allergic to buckwheat.
All the three men who died in Japan were inoculated from the vials of batch number 3004734 which was recalled over fears of foreign matter but the batch was voluntarily suspended as precautionary measure, the health ministry said in a press release.
Japan suspended the use of 1.63mn doses of the Moderna vaccine on 26 August after an investigation found stainless steel contaminants in some vials. The vaccination drive was halted in several centres, in a massive blow to the country’s effort to control the surge driven by the Delta variant.
Apart from detection of steel, some syringes were found with black and pink substances. A health ministry official earlier said that needles may have been inserted incorrectly into the vials, breaking off the rubber stopper.
The three batches were manufactured in Spain in contract with Moderna. It said: “This is a tragic event, and the loss of life is something that we take very seriously. We offer our sincerest condolences to their loved ones.”
The health ministry said any causal relationship between the third identified death’s inoculation and death remains unknown.
Takeda Pharmaceutical, which is in charge of the sale and distribution of the Moderna vaccine in Japan, said last week: “The rare presence of stainless steel particles in the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine does not pose an undue risk to patient safety and it does not adversely affect the benefit/risk profile of the product.”
So far, about 500,000 people have been identified who received shots from the three suspended batches of vaccines, Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the vaccine push, said on Friday.
The health ministry said it is investigating all the three deaths. Earlier, two men aged 38 and 30 died within days of receiving a second dose of Moderna vaccine on 15 and 22 August. Both of them had a dose from one of the suspended lots, reported Reuters.
Japan has administered at least 136 million coronavirus doses and 48 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. The Tokyo Metropolitan government has commenced an online lottery system for people at walk-in centres to boost vaccination drive.