Japan stops use of 1.63 million Moderna vaccine doses over contamination

·2-min read
File: The kind of contamination in the Moderna jabs has not been specified (AP)
File: The kind of contamination in the Moderna jabs has not been specified (AP)

Japan has suspended the use of over 1.63 million jabs of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine after it found contamination in some portions of the vaccine, leading to concerns about inadequate supply.

Japan’s health ministry on Thursday decided to suspend the use of the vaccines after the contamination was reported from multiple vaccination sites.

The kind of contamination in the jabs was not specified. Officials said some of the doses from the contaminated jabs may have been administered. No adverse affects, however, have been reported, the officials said, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The size of foreign substances confirmed in 39 vials is believed to be a few millimetres, with their elements being unknown, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo news. The news agency also quoted the health ministry as saying the 1.63 million doses were produced in the same production line at the same time in Spain.

The jabs were distributed to over 800 centres across the country, prompting the health ministry to order the centres to not use them. The ministry also issued stock numbers so residents can check if they were given the contaminated jab.

Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical, which is in charge of sales and distribution of the vaccine in the country, acknowledged the contamination and said it decided to suspend the use of doses manufactured in the same production line as a safety precaution. However, the company also reiterated it is yet to see any reports of safety concerns.

Moderna has been asked to conduct an emergency investigation by the Japanese company.

Chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters the government and Takeda are discussing ways to minimise the impact of the contaminated doses on the country’s overall vaccination progress.

“We will do utmost in order to avoid any impact on vaccination progress, especially at worksites and large-scale centres,” Mr Kato said.

The contamination has occurred at a time Japan is facing mounting pressure to increase the speed of its immunisation programme, as the country is facing a surge in infections driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, putting tremendous pressure on healthcare systems.

The impact on the distribution of the Moderna jabs is another major concern because Japan has so far relied on foreign-made vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The country is administering about a million doses every day, with around 43 per cent of the Japanese population having been fully vaccinated.

Additional reporting by agencies

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