Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Japan suspended the use of 1.63-million doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine after receiving reports of foreign particles in the vials from several vaccination sites.

Takeda Pharmaceutical, which is the local distributor of the vaccine, and Japan’s ministry of health agreed to stop using doses from three lots after discussing the matter, they said in separate statements on Thursday. 

No safety concerns have been tied to the affected vials, and vaccinations using Moderna’s other shots in Japan will progress as usual, Takeda said. An issue with one production line at Moderna’s contract manufacturing site in Spain may be responsible and an investigation is under way, a spokesperson for the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company said. 

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Thursday the suspension will  not have a big effect on the country’s vaccination programme. Vaccinations in Japan, which started late compared to other developed nations, has progressed quickly since early summer. About 43% of the population is fully vaccinated — nearly 90% of its elderly over the age of 65. 

The situation is similar to a temporary halt in the use of BioNTech’s vaccine in Hong Kong and Macau earlier in 2021  due to a packaging defect. It is not as severe as pauses ordered by regulators, which happened with the Johnson & Johnson shot earlier in 2021 in the US to draw attention to a rare side effect. Still, there are concerns that even temporary stoppages can erode public confidence in the vaccines, which prevent serious coronavirus infections and deaths. 

Japan has a deal for 100-million doses of Moderna’s vaccine — half to be delivered this year and half in 2022. Most of the shots are being used for the country’s workplace vaccination programme through its largest companies and at mass vaccination centres run by the national government in major cities.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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