Japan halts use of 1.63 mil Moderna vaccine doses over contamination

Japan's health ministry said Thursday it has received reports from several domestic mass vaccination centers that some portion of the unused doses of Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine have been found to contain foreign materials.
Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, which is in charge of sales and distribution of the Moderna vaccine in the country, said it is suspending the use of around 1.63 million doses manufactured in the same production line as a precaution.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the company said they have yet to see any reports of safety concerns over the issue.
According to the ministry, Moderna promised to launch an investigation into the matter. Takeda had requested an emergency probe by the U.S. biotechnology firm, while urging medical institutions and other entities not to use any doses of the vaccine showing abnormality, even for doses not subject to the suspension.
The Japanese company added it will make efforts to prevent the suspension from affecting the availability of coronavirus vaccine doses in the country.
Contamination reports came from eight vaccination centers in five prefectures -- Aichi, Gifu, Ibaraki, Saitama and Tokyo. Foreign substances were confirmed in 39 vials.
The health ministry said the 1.63 million doses of Moderna vaccine were produced in the same production line at the same time in Spain, and fall under three lot numbers -- 3004667, 3004734 and 3004956.
As these doses have already been distributed to 863 vaccination centers across the country, the ministry will ask each facility not to use them.
Meanwhile, the ministry revealed the lot numbers so that concerned individuals can check whether they may have received a potentially contaminated shot before the affected vaccine doses were suspended.
The problem came to light at a time when Japan is struggling to contain a spike in coronavirus infections, with the government announcing a plan Wednesday to place eight more prefectures under its COVID-19 state of emergency.
While vaccinations against COVID-19 are under way in Japan, the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has sent daily reported cases surging in many parts of the country.
Over 10 million doses have already been used in the country since the Moderna vaccine was approved for emergency use in May, according to the government.
The Japanese government signed a contract with Moderna to receive 50 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of September. Currently people aged 12 and over can receive shots of the vaccine.
The Moderna vaccine has mainly been administered at the country's mass vaccination centers and business offices.
The vaccine, like the one developed by U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE, uses a new technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA, and is administered in two doses given four weeks apart.

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