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Japan ends distribution of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, discards 13.5 mil doses

This file photo shows the Central Government Building No. 5 housing the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Japan has discarded some 13.5 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as all of the remaining shots supplied by the British pharmaceutical company have expired, the health ministry announced on Sept. 30.

    Japan is officially ending the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

    The Japanese government agreed in December 2020 to buy 120 million coronavirus vaccine doses from AstraZeneca. According to sources including the health ministry, only 200,000 doses have been shipped to local governments and 120,000 doses have been administered.

    Japan has since canceled a contract for 62.3 million doses, and of the already acquired supply, it gave some 44 million doses to other countries free of charge. The remaining doses have been thrown out.

    Based on the confidentiality agreement with the drug maker, the government has not disclosed the purchase price or how much they will be refunded for the canceled doses.

    The AstraZeneca vaccine was once the world frontrunner to be put to practical use, but outside Japan, there were rare cases of blood clots as a side effect. Distribution in Japan was sluggish, as the government limited administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 40 and older.

    (Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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