Therapy Areas: Vaccines
Japan's COVID-19 vaccination programme off to slow start due to vaccine and speciality syringe shortages
8 March 2021 -

Japan's COVID-19 vaccination programme is moving at a slow pace due to lack of supply of vaccine doses and a shortage of specialty syringes, Reuters news agency reported on Monday.

As of 5 March 2021, just under 46,500 doses had been administered to frontline medical workers, since Japan's vaccination campaign began three weeks ago,

It is expected at the current rate, it would take 126 years to vaccinate Japan's population of 126 million. Currently, Japan is focusing on vaccinating about 4.8 million medical workers first before moving on to its elderly population of 36 million.

Japan's Vaccine Minister, Taro Kono, has said that while shots for those over 65 will start next month, supplies will be extremely limited.

Reportedly, Japan has fallen short on readying sufficient supply of the low dead space syringes, which can extract six or even seven doses of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer vaccine from a vial instead of five and 12 doses of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca vaccine per vial instead of 10.

According to Kono, this shortage implies that some doses will go to waste when shots for the elderly start.

Kono added that Japan is continuing to negotiate with Pfizer on supplies and imports are expected to increase four-fold in April from March 2021 to about 1.7 million vials.

However, each shipment must be approved by the EU, which introduced the mechanism in late January 2021 to monitor vaccine exports after drug makers announced delays in their supplies to the bloc.

Japan has secured rights to at least 564 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the largest volume in Asia.

So far, only the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has been approved in Japan. Clinical trials in Japan for AstraZeneca and Moderna's vaccines have been conducted and the vaccines are now awaiting regulatory approval, Reuters added.

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