Japan Finds More Contaminants In Moderna Vaccines, Suspends Use Of Additional 1 Million Doses

Japan's authorities suspended 1 million more doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination in the country after foreign substances were found in additional batches. This move comes just days after 1.63 million doses were halted due to similar concerns. They also began investigating the deaths in two people who were inoculated using doses from the affected lots.

An inoculation site at Haneda Airport in Tokyo is seen with a vial of Moderna coronavirus vaccine against Covid-19. AFP via Getty Images

The Key Facts

According to Reuters the latest decision follows reports of vaccine contamination in the Gunma prefecture, near Tokyo, and the southern Okinawa prefecture. Gunma's local official reported that a small amount of a black substance was found in one vial. In Okinawa, however, both black and pink substances could be seen in vials or syringes. On Monday, the Japanese health ministry noted that needles may have been incorrectly inserted in vials. This could have caused some pieces of the rubber stopper to break off. Officials from the Japanese health ministry stated that there were no safety issues or efficacy problems with the affected lots, and that the suspension was only for precautionary purposes. Two people who received Moderna vaccine from the suspended lot died. Authorities are investigating. While the vaccine manufacturer is investigating the doses that were affected, the Spanish plant responsible for the shots stated that the shots were shipped only to Japan.

Important Quote

Experts remain skeptical that the reported contaminants could have caused the deaths. According to Dr. Takeshi Terashima, an infectious disease expert in Japan, the possibility that the foreign material could cause a disease at the site where it was injected or circulate in the bloodstream and cause a disease would be highly unlikely.

Big Number

43.8% Bloomberg's tracker shows that this is the proportion of Japan's population that have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Japan's rollout has been progressing at a significant pace despite a slow start due to a spike in cases of delta variants.

Important Background

Although the suspension of 2.6 millions doses might not seem significant for a country that has administered almost 125 million shots already, it may encourage vaccine hesitancy in Japan at a time when its largest Covid-19 epidemic is ravaging the healthcare system. A Lancet study last year found that Japan has the lowest level of vaccine safety and effectiveness confidence. According to the study, public opinion regarding vaccines could have dropped after the Japanese government withdrew its 2013 recommendation for the HPV vaccine. Later, it was proven that the fear of side effects which prompted the decision was unfounded. Japan is currently experiencing the worst pandemic outbreak, which has been fueled by the highly infectious Delta variant. On average, 22,000 people are infected each day.

Continue reading

Japan's Moderna vaccine contamination problems get worse (Reuters)

The Moderna shots of Japan contain foreign substances: Here are the facts (Japan Times).

Two Japanese Men Die after Receiving Moderna Covid-19 Shots from Supply.

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