Pfizer, BioNTech start combined trials of COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Japan

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FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a sign outside Pfizer Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City
FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a sign outside Pfizer Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City

TOKYO (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE announced on Tuesday the start in Japan of combined Phase I and Phase II clinical trials of their mRNA vaccine candidate against the coronavirus.

The study will recruit 160 people aged from 20 to 85, the firms said in a statement. Earlier, they had agreed to supply Japan with 120 million doses of their experimental coronavirus vaccine in the first half of 2021.

Pfizer, which is developing the vaccine with German partner BioNTech, has said it may confirm if the vaccine is effective as soon as this month, but also needs safety data from a global trial of 44,000 people that will not be available until next month.

Japan has pledged to secure enough vaccine supply for its entire population by the middle of 2021. In addition to Pfizer, it has struck deals on supplies with AstraZeneca Plc and other overseas makers of vaccine candidates.

Clinical trials of AstraZeneca and Oxford University's experimental COVID-19 vaccine resumed in Japan this month after being put on hold over the illness of a British volunteer.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)