Japan has stopped the use of roughly 1.63 million doses of the Moderna vaccine after contamination was found in unused vials on Thursday.
The contaminations were reported in multiple locations and it is possible some were administered. No adverse effects have been reported. At least 800 doses were affected.
“Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., a Japanese drugmaker in charge of sales and distribution of the vaccine in Japan, said it decided to suspend use of doses manufactured in the same production line as a safety precaution,” reports AP News. “It asked Moderna to conduct an emergency investigation and told medical institutions and organizers to stop using the vaccine produced in Spain and shared the production numbers that may be affected.”
Japan’s inoculation campaign was previously delayed because the nation’s regulatory approval of COVID-19 vaccines was slower than other industrialized countries. Additionally, some experts say the nation’s vaccination roll-out has been “insufficient for achieving mass vaccination … less than 15% of imported doses have been used so far.“ Furthermore, “only nurses and medical doctors can legally vaccinate citizens,” causing hiring shortages.
According to a review published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the “slow roll-out could cause an emergence of new mutants.”
The Japanese government had previously wanted to complete the vaccination of 36 million citizens ages 65 and older by the end of July 2021.
With the halt on the use of Moderna vaccines, there is concern that their efforts will be detrimentally stalled.
Mass vaccination centers in Japan, including universities and large companies, were sent the Moderna vaccination.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters, “We will do utmost in order to avoid any impact on vaccination progress, especially at worksites and large-scale centers.”
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga promised reporters he would make safety this government’s top priority. He said the contaminations “would not have a significant impact” on the continued efforts to vaccinate Japanese citizens.
Suga has been plagued by criticism regarding his handling of the pandemic.
All COVID-19 vaccines used in Japan are currently from foreign manufacturers.
“While Japan has also approved both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, concerns over blood clot issues delayed rollout of the latter until this week; it is being restricted to those 40 and over, as in Britain,” per CBS News.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Wednesday that over 42% of Japan’s general population was fully vaccinated.