TOKYO: AstraZeneca will make more than 90 million coronavirus vaccine shots in Japan, the top government spokesman said on Thursday (Jan 28), as concerns mount over whether the country will have enough doses to begin its delayed inoculation campaign.
The British company confirmed to Japan's health ministry it will make the bulk of the vaccines within the Asian nation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters.
"We believe it is very important to be able to produce the vaccines domestically," Kato said.
Japan plans to begin its inoculation push in late February, with Pfizer's vaccine shots for frontline medical workers. The country trails most major economies in starting inoculations due to its dependence on overseas makers and a requirement that the vaccines go through domestic trials.
READ: Dry ice, containers and overworked doctors - The hurdles for Japan's COVID-19 vaccine roll-out
Japan has arranged to buy 120 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. The Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday that 90 million doses would be made in Japan while the remainder will be imported.
AstraZeneca began Japanese trials of the vaccine, known as AZD1222, last summer and has partnered with Daiichi Sankyo, JCR Pharmaceuticals and other local partners to make and distribute the shots.
AstraZeneca has not yet filed for Japanese approval of its formula, even though its domestic trial started before Pfizer's. AstraZeneca did not immediately respond when contacted by Reuters for comment.
Japan faces major logistical hurdles that some experts say will make it difficult for it to vaccinate a large portion of its population ahead of the planned start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo from July.