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Japan halts import of America’s Moderna vaccine over contamination fears

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Contaminants were seen in some 40 unopened vials of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine at eight vaccination locations in Japan, local media said. (File photo by Reuters)

Japan has halted the import of 1.6 million doses of American Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine after the domestic distributor received reports of contaminants in some vials.

The Japanese health authorities made the announcement on Thursday after contaminants were discovered in some 40 doses of the vaccine at eight different locations across the country, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported.

The health authorities decided to pull the lot that included the contaminants, as well as two other lots produced at the same location.

Japanese government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said contaminants were seen inside vials from one of the three batches, but officials suspended the use of vials from the two others as a precaution.

“We have not received reports of health problems stemming from the foreign object,” he told reporters. “But we are asking people to consult their physicians if they experience any abnormality.”

Takeda Pharmaceutical, the company that distributes the Moderna shot in Japan, said on Thursday that it had “received reports from several vaccination centers that foreign substances have been found inside unopened vials”.

“Upon consultation with the health ministry, we have decided to suspend the use of the vaccine” from three whole batches from Thursday, it added.

The company also said that it had asked Moderna to conduct an investigation into the cause of the problem.

"Moderna confirms having been notified of cases of particulate matter being seen in drug product vials of its COVID-19 vaccine," the U.S. vaccine maker said in a statement, adding it put the lot in question and two adjacent lots on hold.

"The company is investigating the reports and remains committed to working expeditiously with its partner, Takeda, and regulators to address this," it added, referring to Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical (4502.T), which distributes the vaccine in the country.

The problem comes as Japan battles a record surge of virus cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant, raising concerns that medical systems in some parts of the country could be overwhelmed.

After getting off to a slow start, Japan is now administering over a million vaccine doses each day. Currently, about 43 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.


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