Japan halts use of 1.63 million Moderna COVID-19 vaccine over contamination

WION Web Team
Tokyo, JapanUpdated: Aug 26, 2021, 07:23 AM IST

(File photo) A man receives the Moderna covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Tokyo Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

Drugmaker Takeda said it had 'received reports from several vaccination centres that foreign substances have been found inside unopened vials from specific lots'

The Japanese health ministry has announced that it will stop the use of 1.63 million doses of Moderna's Covid vaccine after reports of contamination in several lots.

Drugmaker Takeda said it had "received reports from several vaccination centres that foreign substances have been found inside unopened vials from specific lots." 

Takeda is in charge of sales and distribution of the Moderna shot in Japan.

"Upon consultation with the health ministry, we have decided to suspend the use of the vaccine from the lot from August 26," it added.

The firm said it had informed Moderna and "requested an urgent investigation."

Takeda did not detail the nature of the contamination, but said it had not so far received any reports of health concerns arising from affected doses.

The health ministry said it would work with Takeda to secure alternative doses to avoid disruption to the country's vaccine programme, which has ramped up after a slow start.

Around 43 percent of Japan's population is currently fully vaccinated, but the country is battling a record surge of virus cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant.

Around 15,500 people have died from Covid-19 in the country during the pandemic, and large parts of Japan are under virus restrictions.

Japan will expand states of emergency to eight more prefectures from Friday, taking the total to 21 regions from Hokkaido in the north to the southern island of Okinawa and covering nearly 80 per cent of its population.

Hospitals near capacity

Nomura Research Institute executive economist Takahide Kiuchi estimated the latest state-of-emergency expansion would lead to an additional economic loss of about 420 billion yen ($3.8 billion), bringing the total fallout from Japan's fourth round of emergency curbs to 3.84 trillion yen.

That dwarfs the 1.68-trillion-yen boost the economy was expected to see from holding the Olympic and Paralympic Games, he estimated.

The government will decide this week to tap an additional 1.4 trillion yen from reserves for the additional costs of dealing with the pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, adding that about 60 per cent of the public will be fully vaccinated by the end of September.

"I've done my utmost to promote coronavirus vaccination," he said.

Still, months of emergency curbs in Tokyo and surrounding areas have failed to reverse a surge in infections and about 90 per cent of the city's critical care beds are occupied.

The latest state-of-emergency expansion will add Hokkaido, Aichi, Hiroshima and five other prefectures starting from Friday through to September 12.

Another four prefectures will be placed under more limited "quasi-emergency" measures, bringing the regions under those curbs to a total of 12 out of Japan's 47 prefectures.

"Maintaining the health system is the top priority to protect the lives of citizens," Suga said.

With hospital beds filled to or nearing capacity, many people have been forced to convalesce at home with some dying before they can get treatment.

Securing oxygen stations and nurses, as well as considering the use of antibody cocktails for outpatients, were among the priorities, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said earlier.

"The working-age demographic is the driving force (behind the rise in infections)," Nishimura said. "We need to halve the movement of people."

He added that infections transmitted by children as new school terms start were another concern.

(With inputs from agencies)