After reports of the presence of impurities in certain vials of the vaccine from the American biotech Moderna against the coronavirus, Japan announced this Thursday to suspend the use of 1.63 million doses.
The Japanese pharmaceutical group Takeda, which imports and distributes Moderna’s vaccine in Japan, said in a statement that it had received “reports from several vaccination centers that foreign bodies were found” in sealed vaccine vials. “After consultation with the Department of Health, we have decided to suspend the use” of all vaccines from three batches as of Thursday, or 1.63 million doses in total, Takeda added.
About forty vials concerned
The Japanese group has asked Moderna to conduct an “urgent investigation” into these batches, which according to local media were produced in Spain. Contaminants were found in 39 sealed vials of vaccines at eight different vaccination centers in Japan, including Tokyo, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK. These vials all came from only one of the three lots withdrawn from distribution in Japan. The use of the other two batches was stopped as a precaution, government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said on Thursday.
“For the time being, there is no indication that doses containing these contaminants have been administered” to people, he added during a regular press briefing. Therefore, “we have not had any feedback” on possible health damage related to the injection of such suspicious doses, added Katsunobu Kato.
The medical staff who inject the doses also inspect the vials with the naked eye before preparing and injecting doses, said for its part the Japanese Ministry of Defense, which manages mass vaccination centers in the country. . The Ministry of Health will cooperate with Takeda to distribute alternative doses, in order to avoid an interruption of the national immunization program which has been accelerating for several months after a slow start.
About 43% of the population of Japan is fully vaccinated. But that does not prevent the country from currently struggling with record levels of daily infections, due in particular to the Delta variant, which is more resistant and more contagious. Most of the archipelago is now affected by restrictions against Covid-19, but these remain limited and their effectiveness questionable, the coercive means of the government to impose them being limited.