Saturday, May 15, 2021

Japan to produce 90 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 shots as Olympics loom

Japan lags behind most major economies in starting inoculations due to its dependence on overseas makers and a requirement that the vaccines undergo domestic trials.

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AstraZeneca will make more than 90 million coronavirus vaccine shots in Japan, as concerns mount over whether the country will have enough doses to begin its delayed inoculation campaign.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters on Thursday, “We believe it is very important to be able to produce the vaccines domestically.”

Japan plans to begin its inoculation push in late February, using Pfizer’s vaccine shots for frontline medical workers.

The country lags behind most major economies in starting inoculations due to its dependence on overseas makers and a requirement that the vaccines undergo domestic trials.

Tokyo has arranged to buy 120 million doses of the British vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. The Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday that 90 million doses would be made in Japan while the remainder will be imported.

AstraZeneca began Japanese trials of the vaccine last summer and has partnered with Daiichi Sankyo, JCR Pharmaceuticals and other local manufacturers to make and distribute the shots. It has not yet filed for Japanese approval of its vaccine, even though its domestic trials started before Pfizer’s.

Japan faces major logistical hurdles that some experts say will make it difficult for it to vaccinate a large percentage of its population ahead of the planned start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo from July.

The world’s largest sporting event is planned to involve over 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries who must all be kept safe from a virus that has infected 100 million people and killed more than two million worldwide.

CNN reported on Wednesday that as the opening date draws closer, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach continues to insist that the event will go ahead.

“Our task is to organise Olympic Games and not to cancel Olympic Games,” he said, adding that the IOC is working “day and night” to host a safe event.

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