According to multiple news agencies including Reuters 1.63 million doses of Moderna vaccines have been withdrawn from use from all the 863 vaccinations centres in Japan. On Thursday drug maker Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, which controls the sales and distribution of the Moderna vaccines in Japan said it had received reports from several vaccination centres that “foreign substances have been found inside unopened vials”.
According to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK, citing health ministry sources, the contaminant found in a batch of Moderna Inc’s Covid-19 vaccines received in Japan is believed to be a metallic particle. They also reported that the contaminant or particle reacted to magnet and was therefore suspected to be a metal. Moderna has described it as “particulate matter” that did not pose a safety or efficacy issue.
This sudden news could pose a setback for the vaccination rollout in Japan as the country struggles to vaccinate young people.
News of the contaminant could provide a fresh setback for Japan’s inoculation drive as it struggles to persuade many young people to get vaccinated. The vaccination drive has been waning with about 54% of Japan’s population having received their first dose according to the Reuters tracker.
In a released statement, Taro Kono the vaccine minister said he did not expect the contamination issue to have an impact on the government’s goal of fully inoculating the adult population by November. The ministry also said the suspension of the Moderna batches was just a precaution but it prompted several Japanese companies to cancel worker vaccinations and the European drugs regulator to launch an investigation.
Kyodo News reported that at least 176,000 shots have been used based on its on count of figures reported by the several municipalities rolling out the shots. According to a statement from a health ministry official, it will take “some time” to confirm how many shots had been administered from the contaminated batch.
A spokesperson for ROVI.MC, the Spanish pharma company that bottles the Moderna vaccines for markets other than the United States said the contamination could be due to a manufacturing issue on a production line and could not say anything more whilst investigating.