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Japan to consider sharing COVID-19 vaccines amid calls to help Taiwan

Berita 24 English -  Japan announced on Friday that it would consider sharing its COVID-19 vaccine with other countries after a ruling party...

Berita 24 English - 
Japan announced on Friday that it would consider sharing its COVID-19 vaccine with other countries after a ruling party committee urged the country to provide Taiwan with a portion of its AstraZeneca Plc vaccine stock.

Taiwan is battling a domestic infection outbreak and has vaccinated less than 1% of its population. In contrast, Japan has secured more than 400 million doses, more than double the amount required for its adult population.

"We believe it is critical to ensure equitable access to safe and effective vaccines in every country and
the region as we work toward universal health coverage" said Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato during a news conference.

"We will immediately consider and investigate a concrete course of policy regarding how we provide vaccines to other countries and regions above what is required at home."

Masahisa Sato, chairman of a ruling party committee on Taiwan relations, said earlier Friday that the government should provide Taiwan with vaccines as soon as possible, adding that "when Japan was in need, Taiwan sent us two million masks."

Kato would not comment on whether Tokyo had received requests for supplies from specific countries.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry stated that the government was making strenuous efforts to obtain vaccines directly from manufacturers or through the COVAX global sharing scheme.

Taipei was also looking for "like-minded countries to assist in the acquisition of vaccines, and efforts have not ceased," the statement added.

Japan last week approved AstraZeneca's vaccine and agreed to purchase 120 million doses. However, there are no immediate plans to use the shots in the country, owing to lingering international concerns about blood clots.

Daiichi Sankyo Co, AstraZeneca's local partner, began bottling the vaccine in March. The stockpile is currently estimated to be around 30 million doses, which will expire in September if not used.

The amount is expected to increase as AstraZeneca announced this week the addition of Nipro Corp as its third local partner for vaccine filling and packaging.

Japan began its vaccination campaign in mid-February, one month later than the rest of the world's major economies and using imported doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE.

This week also saw the launch of mass vaccination centres using a vaccine developed by Moderna.

According to government data and schedules, Japan has administered 10.6 million doses to date or roughly a sixth of its imported vaccine. By September, the projected supply will reach 414 million doses, more than double the country's adult population's requirement.

On June 2, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will host a summit on ensuring vaccine supply to developing countries via the World Health Organization's COVAX program. Japan has so far pledged financial support but not vaccines.

Japan will likely retain some of AstraZeneca's adenovirus-type vaccines for people allergic to Pfizer or Moderna's mRNA-type vaccines and distribute the remainder, according to Haruka Sakamoto, a physician and researcher at Keio University in Tokyo.

"Japan is likely to announce that they will donate the AZ vaccine for which they already have a contract and supply COVAX with the AZ vaccine they will manufacture in Japan," she predicted.

According to an AstraZeneca spokeswoman, the Japanese government was responsible for how the doses were administered.

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