Aug 26, 2021 - World

Japan suspends 1.63M doses of Moderna vaccine over contamination concerns

A bottle of the Moderna Inc. Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site in Saitama City, Saitama, Japan, on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021

A bottle of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site in Saitama City, Saitama, Japan, on Monday, Aug. 23. Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Japan halted the use of approximately 1.63 million doses of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine on Thursday after contamination was found in unused vials, AP reports.

Why it matters: The pause comes amid Japan's worst wave of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and as pressure mounts to accelerate vaccinations nationwide, the New York Times notes.

Driving the news: The Japanese health authorities said that unspecified contaminants were found in nearly 40 doses of the vaccine at eight locations across the country, the Times reports.

  • Some doses using the contaminated vials may have been administered, but no adverse health effects have been reported.
  • Takeda Pharmaceutical, which distributes the shots in Japan, asked Moderna to conduct an investigation into the cause of the contaminated vials, and told vaccine sites to stop using the shots, which are produced in Spain, AP reports.
  • Moderna "is investigating the reports and remains committed to working expeditiously with its partner, Takeda, and regulators to address this," the company said in a statement, per Reuters.

What they're saying: "We will do utmost in order to avoid any impact on vaccination progress, especially at worksites and large-scale centers," chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said of the contaminated vials, according to AP.

The big picture: Japan is in its fourth state of emergency due to the pandemic, with daily case numbers reaching over 25,000 for the first time on Friday, the NYT reports.

  • About 43% of the Japanese population have been fully vaccinated, with daily doses of about 1 million, per AP.
Go deeper